Our Creative Future Is At Risk: What “Net Neutrality” Means For Visual Storytellers

Judge Doom Saw Hand

The Internet is the most accessible, affordable and inclusive media distribution platform in history.

The freedom and equality it offers for creative people like you and me has inspired big dreams and new hope for our world, our families and for ourselves as creative people.

Right now, that freedom and equality is being threatened by Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T.

These companies are attempting to take control of the Internet by dismantling a good thing called “Net Neutrality.”

…and we artists need to speak up.

In this post, I have done my best to:

  • Simplify the convoluted issue of Net Neutrality.
  • Explain how the issue affects artists and visual storytellers.
  • Encourage you to take one quick, simple action and email the people in charge.

This issue doesn’t just affect Americans. Every artist on the Internet knows that our fans and collaborators come from all over the world.

We all must act quickly to protect our creative future…

What They Really Mean Is “Net Equality”

The term “Net Neutrality” could be better described as “Net Equality.”

During my ‘Story Science’ panel at Emerald City Comic Con, writer/ indie comics creator Jim Zub explained what “Net Equality” means for artists and visual storytellers:

“The internet is the ultimate leveling field because something can become insanely popular on its own merit. It’s all equidistant. It’s about the merit of the work. The biggest comic right now is not Superman or Batman or Spider-Man. It’s Penny Arcade. “

Penny Arcade is one of the most popular and longest running webcomics.

They have a huge convention for gamers that hosts over 70,000 people each year and their merchandise requires an entire warehouse.

Two fanboys created a little, gag-a-day comic that has grown into a media empire.

Without Net Neutrality success stories like Penny Arcade would never have happened.

A huge crowd at PAX 2013. Photo by Nguyen

A huge crowd at PAX 2013. Photo by Nguyen Nguyen

It’s Basically The Plot Of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

roger-rabit-choke

Judge Doom hates Toons.

The political drama surrounding the “Net Neutrality” issue is like the plot of the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

In the movie, every cartoon character (Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Felix The Cat etc.) exists in the real world.

They come from a place called ToonTown which is located near Los Angeles, California.

Judge Doom is (obviously) the villain and his evil plan is (minor spoiler alert) to “erase” ToonTown from the earth so he can build a highway in it’s place.

We Are The Toons.

We are the Toons and and all of these amazing, diverse, happy, crazy, inspiring art communities we’ve built online are our ToonTown.

…and Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon want to build highways that could wipe our home off the map.

…or at least displace us and make it extremely difficult to find each other.

This issue affects artists worldwide. Please share this post on Twitter by clicking here.

Who Is Judge Doom?

The cable companies aren’t the only ones who are creating problems for us Toons.

The Federal Communications Commission was formed in 1934 to “regulate” radio and television broadcasts.

Now they “regulate” the Internet too.

Suspiciously, Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, is a former cable company lobbyist. Hmmm…

The FCC and specific members of the US Congress are currently working to pass laws that will create a “fast lane” for big business and a “slow lane” for everyone else.

If you want to get into the fast lane, you’ll have to pay a toll.

…a toll you probably can’t afford.

Startups, small businesses, non-profits and indie artists are currently in the “fast lane” along with everyone else. (Equality)

These new laws will allow the cable companies to slow our websites down artificially when making room for the “fast lanes” with the potential to effectively block them from our fans, friends and collaborators across the world.

The Worst Case Scenario?

jerseyshoreOne of my Twitter friends made a great point about what might happen if we lose Net Neutrality: 

Maybe you’re aware that Facebook has recently implemented some confounding changes that make it nearly impossible to get your fans and followers to see your posts. (But they sure do get to see a lot of ads.)

…if we lose Net Neutrality, the entire Internet could be like Facebook.

…with favored “fast lane” content produced and controlled by the same people who brought you Jersey Shore and Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

I know it all sounds frighteningly Orwellian

  • Imagine an Internet that gives political preference.
    The cable companies could give more bandwidth and attention to their own causes and self-interests.
  • Imagine an Internet that silences the voice of the people.
    Consider the role of social media in The Egyptian Revolution of 2013.
  • Imagine an Internet that hides the truth.
    “Cocoa Puffs are part of this nutritious breakfast!”

The new laws don’t just spoil the Internet for creators. The consumer suffers too. Check out this post on NPR to learn more.

Wake Up And Smell The Censorship:

Nobody wins in this scenario – not the innovators and creatives – not the consumers.

…only Comcast and the other big cable companies.

Tom Wheeler and the FCC need to pick a side: “Toontown” or “Judge Doom?”

Speak Out While You Still Have A Voice:

Tom Wheeler

Tom Wheeler is the chairman of the FCC and a former cable company lobbyist.

The good news is that The FCC has announced that they want to hear from the people.

Email Tom Wheeler ASAP and share your heart, your hopes and dreams in your own words.

Tell them that you’re an independent artist who makes your living (or is working to make your living) in whole or in part by the current equality (neutrality) of the Internet.

Be respectful but tell them that it is their responsibility to the future of humanity that they protect REAL Net Neutrality and the “Internet Slow Lane” is unjust and unacceptable.

If you would like to learn more about the Net Neutrality issue, watch this hilarious and highly-informative (slightly NSFW) video.

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{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan

Even if I live in a third world country, the internet provided me with knowledge and work which gave shelter to my own family and aid to my elderly parents. If they take away the internet from us, they will be starving millions of people. Thank you for keeping us informed about this Chris. I just sent them an email via the link to support this cause.

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Travis Bond

Thanks for making your voice known!

That’s right, this isn’t an American issue, this is a global issue.

In a world that depends so heavily on the Internet and global communications, we as a collective people can’t afford to sign away our rights to people and corporations who don’t care about us as individuals.

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John

Totally right. I feel that corporations like the above are only doing it for money and profit. They won’t stop at any moment to get things their way. I’m not saying this is a conspiracy or anything, but money can make people, and groups of people, do things that screw the rest of the population, and this seems too much like a plan to get more money or monopolize other corporations. In my mind, I’d like to think that this situation is turning into one where society becomes that of Blade Runner or Deus Ex because of things like this. Pretty bad. Needs to be changed.

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Chris Oatley

Thank you, Jan! The support from our friends overseas has been very encouraging.

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Jared Dennis

This is the most concise description I think anybody will find describing this mess. I was thinking as I was reading, ‘why do they need a fast lane if they’re already in it? Even though I am as well…what’s the problem?’ Then it hit me like a ToonTown brick, that is the problem, I am the problem, my voice and the amount of viral air it takes up is the issue here. No way, no how, this must NOT see the light of day. It seriously feels like this is the last straw for humanity, and we must Fight to prevent it’s turn-over!

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Travis Bond

That’s right, Jared!

I thought the same exact thing originally – what do they have to gain? They’re not going to get any faster Internet by doing this….

…except that’s not the goal.

The goal seems to be to eliminate competition on the Internet and to limit the outreach potential of the common man, thereby “increasing” their own.

It would diminish your opinion and voice unless you have a lot of money – one of the very principles America has stood to protect.

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Chris Oatley

The cable companies/ big media companies have been thrashing for years as the Internet revolutionizes media and communication. These companies are too slow to keep up.

Instead of responding, innovating and making the world a better place, it sounds to me like they are just trying to take control (severely inhibiting change) to serve their own interests.

Thanks, Jared for your insights. We all need to pull together and protect our community.

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Olga

This is just plain scary. I never thought to see the book “1984” to become reality :(

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Travis Bond

Yes, it is very scary.

And while we don’t like the thought of it at this point in time, it wouldn’t be surprising if a ruling in their favor created problems worse than what we’re even considering now.

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Chris Oatley

That was my first thought when I heard about this.

I just can’t believe that this is even a debate. I’m really praying that the FCC has our back…

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Mandy Milliron

Just sent an email in the link. Though, I can see this happening as the USA has another monopoly in the internet providers.

However, what the Telecom companies might not realize due to their clear arrogance is the internet is the only thing that is keeping a lot of Americans in the USA as it allows them to reach their audience and get work even though wages and normal jobs have been stagnate and bills (including internet) going up and up.

The instant they snip that, I would not be surprise how many people, not just businesses, will move overseas.

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Travis Bond

Good point, Mandy!

The Internet really is a double-edged sword in this case, isn’t it?

It’s a global thing which means that even if people were to leave the United States, the problem would still follow them, they would potentially just pay less for their Internet access.

It really does discourage entrepreneurship in many regards, though, because people wouldn’t be able to start up the businesses they want and see needed by the community at large. It also means as a consumer, you’re going to have a lot harder time finding the things that you currently enjoy unless they’re in the mainstream market.

Thanks for sending that e-mail! Every voice counts!

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Chris Oatley

Very well put, Trav.

Also, Mandy, to add yet another unsettling thought to the mix: The reach of these big cable companies is becoming more and more global by the day.

*shudders*

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Mandy Milliron

I already know that as it not just big cable companies. But, if this does passes, it will not just ruin our internet… But it could be the cause the next global depression as the trigger.

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Scott Wiser

I just sent my email. I hope this doesn’t pass. I can see how it could ruin everything I’ve been building the past few years.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention, and especially for demystifying the info!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Scott. My thoughts exactly.

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Bethany

I sent an email this morning. Thanks for keeping us up to date and explaining everything so clearly.

Ironically, I was at a party last night and it was pretty much agreed upon that cable tv is becoming less relevant in light of stuff like Netflix and Hulu. I wonder if cable companies are trying to regain some lost ground by lobbying for more control over the internet?

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Bethany!

I’m certain this is the case.

The problem is that they are trying to prevent progress and keep everything the same so they don’t have to change or relinquish control of the global conversation.

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Tyler Palmer

Insightful and important piece Chris. Thank you for sharing!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Tyler!

…and thanks for your insightful and important work at Patreon.com!

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Martin

This would put us many years behind when it comes to innovation and data sharing :(

Also think I read somewhere several countries are considering creating their own networks outside the U.S., so the U.S. will be isolated when it comes to Internet

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Chris Oatley

That would be a complete nightmare!

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Jen Waldon

This is the sort of thing that was the cause of many a revolution. When the wealthy (in this case, over-reaching monopolies) decide they want to take money out of people’s pockets, food off their tables, and silence them, they get angry and revolt.
It makes me angry and sad all at once. I’m trying to work towards becoming a freelance artist, and if this thing sees the light of day, my dreams will be killed in the cradle. I’ve sent off my own email to them as well.
I really hope this doesn’t make the world much messier.

Do you think it’s possible for someone to cause a new way to access the internet equally to spring up?

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Chris Oatley

Hey, Jen.

I’m pretty sure Google is already on it.

They could, theoretically, bypass physical cables with a free and open, wireless Internet. Of course, they’ll still have to deal with the FCC in America.

I have no doubt that early adopters and indie creators would jump to a wireless ISP instantly but it will take a while to get the masses to make the transition.

Much of the money and attention that fuels our online, creative economy would still take a HUGE hit. That could, theoretically, tank lots of creative businesses before they can benefit from the wireless transition.

Also, AT&T and Verizon are two of the biggest troublemakers. They already have control much of the existing wireless space.

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Chris Oatley

Regardless, a loss of true Net Neutrality will likely be devastating for many small businesses.

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Melissa Allison

Just sent my mail as well. Since I don’t keep up with the news (because I ENJOY being happy) I did not realize this was happening.
Thank you Chris for bringing this to our attention.

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Chris Oatley

You’re welcome Melissa!

I actually wish this issue was getting more news coverage!

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Dant'Anna

Done, Chris. I had no idea of that sort of thing. I live in Brazil and this kind of thing don’t usually come to our senses.

love yout work, keep doing it.

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Chris Oatley

Thank you, Dant’Anna!

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Ian

Email sent! I’m not even a US citizen and I’m so frustrated by this. Would I be right in saying that some of the biggest internet phenomenons over the past 10 years such as Facebook and Twitter which are worth billions now could not have grown and flourished under these proposed new laws. It seems like a great way of hindering small businesses from growing into big businesses. Can you imagine a world without Facebook and Twitter now?! Crazy.

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Chris Oatley

I agree. I don’t think Facebook or Twitter would have flourished under this kind of control.

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Tommi

Here’s another great video about Net Neutrality. It teaches us the same things through humor:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): Net Neutrality
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU

Great article Chris and thanks for sharing this information. More people need to know about this!

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Chris Oatley

This video is fantastic. I actually think it’s borderline-genius.

It would be considered NSFW in some cultures, but John Oliver’s explanation is probably the best one out there.

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Paula

Tommi, loved the video.
Just had to spread that to everyone I knew. THANK YOU!

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Rositsa 'roz' Zaharieva

Chris,

Thank you for letting me know about this. I really had no idea but I can see how it could affect the entire world, not just us artists and not just people who live in the USA. I’ll do my best to let people around me know about the issue.

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Chris Oatley

Roz,

Thanks so much for spreading the word.

And keep a lookout for cable companies in your own country trying to do the same thing.

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Keith Zoo

Thanks for posting this Chris! One thing that is also worth mentioning is that even if you aren’t a small business owner or artist, you will still be hit by this proposed nonsense. Anyone who uses a susbscription based service (Netflix, spotify, etc) will be seeing a whole lot more of that if this goes through. Companies will have to start charging a premium just to stay “priveleged” to be in the fast lane. So we very well could be seeing a tiered system much like how current cable works. A flat fee gets you basic internet, pay more and you get cooler high bandwidth stuff. A business model these companies sure are familiar with, like you said in your article, rather than grow and innovate, they’d rather people conform to them.

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Chris Oatley

You’re absolutely right, Keith.

Did you watch the John Oliver talk about this? It makes Comcast seem creepier than ever.

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Dave

You cannot beat these guys.
The FCC is not asking for input. They are testing the waters.
Time and money will out – and the bad guys have much more of both.
This issue comes up every other year – and every other year the pro-SOPA guys make a little more headway.

Sorry for the downer, but it just seems inevitable. But good luck!

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Sean Wickett

Which is why it’s so important to actively fight for our freedoms. Our grandparents had to do it and now, so do we.

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Chris Oatley

Exactly, Sean. Thanks for saying something thoughtful.

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Chris Oatley

Wow, Dave.

The majority of your comment indicates that you have never read a history book nor have you any knowledge of the many significant social advancements of the past ten years (one of which I referenced in the post proper).

There is value in offering sobering perspective about the potential down-sides to any situation, but I don’t think anyone involved in this issue is in any position to make absolute statements about what we can or cannot accomplish.

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Ian

What I find frustrating is that I’m from England and this issue is not an American one, but a global one! It needs a much larger stage to play out on. How can a few guys in the US speak for the whole planet?
Maybe the European Union will deem it unlawful and stop them from doing the same in Europe. I hope so.

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Chris Oatley

I KNOW! It’s absolutely maddening!

After podcasting and teaching online for six years, I now have many friends in every corner of the world!

The thought of my connection to them being compromised to make more room for Honey Boo Boo sends me into a Hulk-like rage.

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Nick Patton

Thanks for bring this up Chris. Let’s hope Downer Dave isn’t right.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Nick.

Downer Dave apparently has never read a history book or reports about any important social change of the past ten years.

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Shawna JC Tenney

Thank you, Chris, for addressing this important issue, for making this more clear for artists (and everyone else), and spreading the word. I hope that this will help more people take action to let our voices be heard.

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Chris Oatley

Me too, Shawna. Thank you!

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Marsha Ritu

Thanks for taking the time to great the word out about this really important issue. :)

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Chris Oatley

Thank you, Marsha!

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Sean Wickett
Chris Oatley

Awesome, Sean. Thank you.

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Ashley Dotson

Thank you so much for writing this up Chris. Glad to have a reliable source with no spin when it comes to this stuff.

Writing them an email now.

Hope they’re being truthful when they say they want to hear our opinions…

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Chris Oatley

Me too, Ashley.

Not everyone on the FCC has a background as questionable as Tom Wheeler. Certain specific members could serve as strong advocates for our community.

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Eli Camacho

Chris…seriously thanks for sharing this. I heard about Net Neutrality like a week ago but I wasn’t paying too close of attention because I didn’t think this was serious…I didn’t think this was really happening until I got your e-mail about this and read this post…THIS CANNOT HAPPEN! If they pass these rules it would be like choking the majority of the people on the internet, both creatives and consumers alike! Not to mention, as Jan so kindly shared with us, the millions of people over seas who literally rely on the internet as a source of providing for their families…and I myself am working towards making a living online based on the equality of the internet…We CANNOT let this pass…

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Chris Oatley

You’re absolutely right, Eli.

So many hopes are potentially at stake.

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Jacob Sturk

Thanks for the post Chris. Net Neutrality is absolutely crippling! This is a terrible solution the Cable Companies came up with to “band-aid” their lack of proper infrastructure. Instead of fixing the real problem, Net Neutrality is allowing them to maintain their current infrastructure and collect record profits. THIS HAS TO BE STOPPED! The FCC needs to step in here, I’ve already wrote my email and sent a letter.

Net Neutrality coupled with the cost of starting up a new ISP monopolizes the industry. Hopefully enough people stand up to the FCC and Cable Companies, we can’t let this happen.

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Chris Oatley

Thank you, Jacob! I bet your letter was awesome!

Yes, we need to preserve REAL Net Neutrality and, if anything, take steps to INCREASE fairness and equality online.

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Chris Perry

Thank you Chris for the link, very entertaining and informative. I wonder if we can get a petition written up. Thanks for keeping me informed about all things creative.

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Chris Oatley

Sean Wickett linked to the petition in a comment above. Check it out!

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Chris Perry

I sent a letter! But I will sign any petition as well

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Chris! Letters are awesome. I think I’ll do the same.

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Rob

Man, I was really hoping we wouldn’t have to resort to “internet2.0″ but this obsession with control is going to have us all scrambling to pay for access that we’d otherwise have freely. I gladly signed the petition, but sadly, I lack the confidence that it will make the difference in the end. If people don’t like these corporations that are pushing for this crap, then they have to STOP using their services. Always easier said than done. We are our own worst enemy.

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Chris Oatley

Angie and I have all but abandoned these big companies for reasons that we were aware of BEFORE this one.

We are currently in the process of cutting our final tie to AT&T – our cel phone service.

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Sean Wickett

That’s a big step but soooo worth it.

Do we really need 500 channels? Save yourself a $100 a month and ditch the cable TV. You’ll have more money and more time. Wanna watch a show? Congrats! You’re in the USA and you have the internet.

I’m in Canada and we haven’t had cable TV in almost 8 years; just the internet. And we survived.

Hit these big companies right where it hurts: in the wallet.

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Chris Oatley

Yes. We have never had cable – mostly for budgetary reasons. But we often encourage our friends who are looking to save money to consider cutting cable out. You’re exactly right. It’s insanely expensive for a heck of lot of content we’ll never watch.

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Jody Hughes

I feel like Im on a tiny planet and the death star is pointing is big zappy gun thing at me.

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Chris Oatley

Haha… That. Would. Suck.

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Elena Rawle

Oh I’m so happy to see you talking about this Chris! And you even have a link to that excellent explanation video! This is such a serious issue–I’ve been supporting campaigns against it for months and the more knowledge of it is spread the better. I’ve seen a lot of people afraid to acknowledge that net neutrality is in danger because they’re so afraid of it happening they’d rather pretend the issue doesn’t exist, but the reality is that the only way we can beat this thing is by fighting it and continuing to spread the word!

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Chris Oatley

That’s right, Elena.

Thank you for your ongoing effort in the cause.

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Rebecca Weis

Thank you Chris for bringing attention to this.
I’ve been following this issue off and on and didn’t really consider that the FCC and Tom Wheeler taking away Net Neutrality would negatively impact all artists who rely on the internet to improve their art, connect with others, or just come across another artist’s website. But now that I have read your article it makes sense that the elimination of we ‘toons’ just so they can supposedly make the internet ‘faster’ is disastrous and can never work!
I sincerely hope the FCC and Tom Wheeler get this before they break the harmonious flow the internet currently has.

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Chris Oatley

Me too, Rebecca. Yes – be sure to email the FCC!

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Emily

Thanks so much for this, Chris. People need to know what’s really going on and we need to act against some power-hungry people who want to control us. Let’s go Divergent.

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Chris Oatley

Haha! Thanks, Emily!

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Ben Rowberry

Thanks for bringing more attention to this I’ve been paying attention since around when it started and I emailed multiple senators, my governor the white house and the FCC about a month ago. I feel a little discouraged that it may not do much but don’t know what else to do. I hope the outcry from the public will make them reconsider so innovation in all areas isn’t stifled.

Thanks again for this as well as all your other inspirational article and podcast’s Chris!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Ben. We have to hope that appealing to the good in people will encourage the majority to make the right decision.

And thank you for the encouraging words.

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Chris

I can not emphase enough how important this matter is and how thankfull I am that you also write and inform people to take action. It’s a shame that our governments doesn’t really care about it either, and I really hope it will make a difference if the people cry out and stop this dangerous path.

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Chris Oatley

Me too, Chris. Me too…

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David White

unrelated, but i just bookmarked your blog. great art. :)

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Chris

unrelated: but thank you :)

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David White

Emailed Tom Wheeler.

Chris, thank you for bringing this issue to light (for me anyway) and keeping things simple and clear. I often get overwhelmed by all of the “sources” out there so I appreciate your honesty.

We have to stop this. We have to try.

My dream is to tell visual stories- to give kids awesome dreams, provide escape to them what need a break, inspire young artists, heck maybe even one day teach like Prof Oats ;)

I can reach them, I can share my hArt with them and you guys. The internet makes it possible.

If we don’t stop this grab for power, myself and others like me will be hobbled.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks for the kind words, buddy. You’re one of my favorite humans.

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Andrea K Haid

I emailed the FCC, made a donation to the Free Press Action Fund and I shared your link on twitter, facebook, all the artists I work with. I also send in your webpage as a tip to cartoonbrew.com though there isn’t any confirmation after you hit “submit” so hopefully that worked out. (If anyone else wants to share this tip with cartoonbrew.com please do) Spread the word artists!

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Andrea! Anything we can do to help our fellow artists…

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Taylor

Thanks Chris for raising awareness about this! I’ve used my Internet privileges to share this while they last (lol, don’t mean to sound pessimistic! There’s no way we can let this thing transpire!) . Seriously though the Internet has been amazingly instrumental in just…people being able to share and create and LEARN things without having to pay lots of money for tutors and classes, as well as meet up with other people with similar interests. Kinda reminds me of the whole SOPA incident a couple years back (didnt follow it then unfortunately, being too caught up in personal stuff–something about censorship I think? I do remember that Wikipedia blacked itself out to protest.), everyone just rallied around and was like “NO. This is NOT OKAY.”

I liked your Roger Rabbit analogy! Also I thought the biggest webcomic today was Homestuck? Tho i guess it’s not a comic in the traditional sense, it’s yet another perfect example of a unique and groundbreaking work of art that wouldn’t have been able to blossom under these hypothetical measures.

Once again, thank you.

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David

Oh lord, of course all of this had to happen. It started with companies, like Adobe, moving onto a cloud based modell. Basically where companies want to have more money and control beyond the current possibilities, they will start to force people into some weird stuff. First it is companies renting software, online DRM, then providers want to throttle the internet-speed and one has to pay a higher fee (on top of endless other fees) to have all the options we already have: Control over our tools, work, and how we get information, or how we use entertainment software, etc.
Some day I fear that everything the internet could have been in the future, will be the opposite: Some greedy system where everything is floating in a cloud, everyone has to pay monthly fees without having any control as to how they access, use, etc. their content or information.

And now even the internet itself might turn into that horrifying thing even earlier than I thought. (Reminds me of a story I am developing: “Disconnected”, featuring the exact same scenario in a near future city)

Is there any way to avoid this if greedy companies/people really want to force it on us? They know that people need the internet, the software (like the tools we need for work) and the ability to publish our content by ourselves. So what could we do if things will turn into that “greedynet”?

I am already doing my best not to support anything that foreshadows or actually already does this “we take everything away from you and decide when, how, etc. you use xyz content or information”-system.

What the internet might become, if we are not careful, is something I talked about with friends and colleagues many months ago.

But we have no idea if it will be avoidable that companies turn the internet into a greedynet, even if we all protest against it. However… we have to try.

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David White

Is there a list of companies/organizations that support this other than the ones listed in the video? I’d like to try and pull my support from them as much as possible.

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Howie

I know this isn’t a very popular opinion regarding this issue, but shouldn’t Comcast or any ISP have the final say with the product they provide? Doesn’t the owner of a sporting goods store have the right to choose which products he wants to sell and advertise? If for some reason he doesn’t want to sell Nike products doesn’t he have the right to do so?

I completely agree with everyone that what Comcast is proposing sucks but I don’t think we should force them to bend to our will. Even if Comcast follows through fully with their plan and “ruins the internet” for smaller entities who can’t afford to pay for the fast lane whats to stop one of their competitors from advertising that they are net neutral and deliver a equal product for all and steal all of Comcast’s customers? If Comcast goes through with this I think it would just be bad business on their part, upcoming services like Google Fiber will just swallow up the void they leave behind.

Maybe I don’t understand the issue fully so please correct me if I’m misunderstanding something.

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Chris Oatley

We aren’t forcing them to bend to our will. We’re pleading with the government to protect the Net Equality that has helped to make our world a better place.

Antitrust laws exist for a reason. Monopolies are bad because at best they hurt the consumer and at worst they enable the darkest human tendencies, leading to extortion and control of information.

If you’ve read 1984 by George Orwell, you get a very clear picture of how a loss of Net Neutrality could lead to a very scary future including but in no way limited to a loss of dignity for the majority of people on the planet.

Dignity keeps us alive and thriving. Without dignity, it’s just, at best, survival.

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Chris Oatley

The potential outcome you describe – Comcast cannibalizing it’s own market and Google Fiber effectively becoming “Internet 2.0″ – is, in my opinion, the best case scenario under a loss of Net Neutrality. Even then, is Google the most trustworthy savior?

Regardless of the physical cables or wireless signals that carry it, I think the open Internet with true Net Neutrality is better than a new Internet run by Google alone.

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David White

I agree, keeping the internet as wide open and level as possible is the best option.

It’s the only way to keep things truly level. What’s to stop Google or anyone else from doing the same thing as Comcast? I don’t think we can rely on any one corporation to do what is not in THEIR best interest as opposed to the worlds best interest.

I could be way off here (i don’t know a lot) but I think one of the core issues that need to be addressed (if it hasn’t already) is:

“What is the internet”? Who decides that?

We have folks who use the internet for selling/exchange and we have folks that want to sell/exchange the internet itself? Did I get that right?

Is the internet itself a product or a forum? Can it be both? Should it be?

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Howie

Thanks Chris, appreciate the reply!

I don’t think any one company is a trustworthy savior, that’s why competition is crucial; competition is what keeps companies in line. Google is one form of competition for Comcast but there are others such as Verizon, AT&T, Satellite services, etc. None of them are trustworthy on their own but when they are competing they keep each other in check. As you said, the Antitrust laws will prevent there from ever being just one big company and competition will always be around.

So if Comcast wants to screw themselves over and piss everyone off I say let them, everyone will just switch to a service that gives them what they want. And if that service is Google Fiber then Google is just as capable of screwing themselves over and another company will take the reigns.

Going back to my retail store example, net neutrality sounds like you telling me what I have to put in my store, shouldn’t I have the right to put whatever I want in my store while you have the right to shop anywhere you want?

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Chris Oatley

I totally see your point. But, for example, a conspiracy or merger between Comcast and Time Warner is a whole ‘nother issue. A retail store is a whole ‘nother thing. Retail stores have inherent limitations that prevent the potentially disastrous consequences of a loss of Net Neutrality.

…which is why we aren’t having this same conversation about retail stores.

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Norm

A better comparison than retail would be phone lines/connections, which actually operate under similar principles, as the internet currently does. In phones they’re regulated as “common carriers”, meaning service providers have to treat all connections/information across their lines equally. That’s how the internet currently works (mostly), and this proposal changes that.

So, give a direct example, you pay for your phone and it’s connection to the network, along with all other individuals. A business pays for it’s phones and it’s connection to the network, along with all other businesses. Those funds cover the maintenance of the network and profit for the companies which are the service providers. Whether you make a call, someone else does, or the businesses makes a call, you all get equal priority and treatment by the network. Under the new proposal, that changes, the larger businesses can pay (or may be forced to pay) to have exclusive use of portions of the network, limiting the network for all individuals and small businesses and lowering their priority. And the justification for it, has been that the service providers are being put under too great a burden, for a service they chose to sell…

Basically, imagine if you (or your small business) tried to make a call and you had to wait an undefined period of time for it to connect, and when it did connect you could never be sure of the line quality, constant dropped calls, cutting out, etc. And this is because even though you’ve already paid for the service once, they’ll only ensure the quality of their service (maybe) if you pay twice. That’s what this proposal encourages, it’s allows for extremely anti-competitive practices and discourages investment in infrastructure.

As for moving to another provider, that’s very often not possible, most major companies actually have agreements to stay out of each other’s areas (ironically, the merger Chris mentions is using that as an excuse for why they should be permitted to merge, because there’s already no overlap). Most of the U.S. has fewer than 3 possible providers in their areas and that’s not likely to change, this proposal would actually further encourage that stagnation.

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Howie

Thanks for replies Chris and Norm!

I thought retail was a good example because it shows that regulation isn’t necessary in a competitive market, people vote with their wallets and any store that can’t deliver a desirable product fails.

The phone lines example is interesting since as you stated it seems like they have regulation similar to what Net Neutrality is proposing already but if that regulation was taken away today do you think our services would change all that much? If my phone provider said my connections were going to be severely limited to what I have now I think I would probably say “screw you” and go somewhere else. Or maybe they could offer something better than what I have now such as a line that blocks labeled solicitors (I would love that!) I don’t see why competition wouldn’t work the same way as it does in retail.

You are definitely right in saying that our choices are limited, and I think that is really the main problem. If there is no competition Comcast/Time Warner has every incentive to get as much money out of us as they can and deliver as little as possible, we have no where else to go. I think this article makes an important point http://tinyurl.com/l4cm9xo

Basically it’s saying that local governments dictate who can and can’t install wires/cables on their land. So they make deals with companies like Comcast/Time Warner that nets them a ton of cash and then agree block out anyone else that wants to compete. If these deals didn’t happen and anyone was free to compete in any area I think we would all be laughing at Comcast for proposing a service with limitations like this, but since there is nowhere else for us to go Comcast’s plans are a serious threat.

I don’t think regulation is the answer, I think opening up the market for competitors is more fair and will yield better results.

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Norm

Hmm, I think maybe the issue here is that you’re making a lot of assumptions regarding how markets work, which are not supported by economic studies/models/history, I’m afraid.

The competition, even limited as it is, in phone services only exists because of the regulation. And a fair number of competitors doesn’t necessarily lead to a differentiated market, even in retail situations, a good example would be in regards to fuel pricing/fuel supplies.

Also, the article you linked actually has the causation reversed, so I can only assume the author isn’t aware of the history of how the infrastructure was created, or how such contracts came about.

It is possible that opening the market wider might yield benefits, but because of the economies of scale and sunk costs involved, it would almost certainly require extensive public funding to be attractive to business/investors (much in the same way as companies demanded public-private partnerships to create the current infrastructure).

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Yasmin

Thanks for composing this fantastic article, Chris. I’ve taken every step you recommended. Let’s all keep the fight alive for the coming months that this issue is still on the table! Please let us know if there’s more action we can take, Chris. Thanks kindly!

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Henrike

I must admit all this still confuses me a bit. I did some research and it appears that the Netherlands have accepted some strict laws a few years ago that protect net neutrality. Last april the EU has accepted some laws quite similar to ours so it appears that net neutrality is quite protected in the EU.
But I`m still confused. If the US does censor the internet, wouldn`t that also affect us? (you know…since this is the world wide web and all….and I frequently read and watch stuff from overseas) Even though providers in our country are not allowed to influence the bandwith of their customers, would that also count for providers in the US? Or do we have *European* net neutrality now, but not world wide net neutrality?

*is confused*

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Christian Müller

You’re right, but the Union also discuss the TTIP in secret and the german government actually don’t do anything to protect it’s people according to the german constitution against the american and british surveilance agencies as they inclined to.
The US governmental bodies also seems to be on the paycheck of lobbyistic agencies, the current leader of the FCC was a former telecommunication lobbyist party member.
The governments should do it, the laws should protect the people, but without the politicans and agencies like the FCC enforcing them, nothing actually happens. And, unfortunately, most of the internet user doesn’t care or are not informed about the matter enough to be worried.

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Duncan Hip

Man this is outrageous! I was just about to start my web comic business and they started this crap? No way! I am not going to sit on this and neither do my artist fellows in Malaysia will!!!
Chris thanks for your info and I really glad that I have your newsletters in my mailing list. Really appreciate your efforts!

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Mal

This has probably been said before – but I wonder if these mega corps understand where the internet comes from? By this I mean web content, the sites that house the content, etc…It’s us, the people! The internet wasn’t created with all kinds of great content in place, it was massive innovation by people engaging the form, taking place over a relatively short period of time. It’s maddening that they don’t see this – it’s bound to hurt them as well. I can’t stand Facebook myself, but would happen if there were an internet user strike? A Day without Posts? A Tweetless Tuesday? Our ability to access this wacky invention is what keeps the whole thing in motion, no?

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CG

There’s a problem here, and I smell a rat. If you write to this guy, he will round up all the’competitors’ to the cable companies and find out who they are, get into their internet accounts and slow them down; yeah this guy wants to hear from you so they can find you, drawing everyone out..I’m not trusting of big companies or the FCC; dont trust this guy!

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CG

I forgot to add, if anyone has studied their world history, the same thing happened when Mao was in charge; at one time he encouraged the ‘revolutionaries’ to speak up, without reprisal; he always wanted to hear from them, their thoughts and opinions about the Party’s policies. Soon after they had spoken out, they were rounded up in force, they and their families destroyed. This was Mao’s way of drawing out those that opposed him, and they fell for it!

The way this guy is asking people to share their views makes me think of that situation. Think about it; this guy is the chairman of the FCC, look at their track history so far; do you really think he cares about the people? They are just going to use these emails people are writing against them, to find out who they are and who to censure. Anyone that studies history can see this ploy a mile away. I tell you, the law is going to pass and the FCC and cable co’s will know who you are and what competition you represent; not a good idea to write to these guys!

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Chris

If you are right, than there is no reason not to speak out, because fear it what controlls the masses.
You also can’t controll Mao with the FCC. In any way, the people need to speak out, because the people gives the companies and governments the power, no matter how many money is involved.

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Jedd

I may not be completely understanding it, but isn’t this potentially dangerous for the companies as well? I can’t imagine there not being a massive boycott of people using their services if this went through. We’d all pretty much be under a rock anyway if it did.

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