Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe & More Join Net Neutrality Fight in FCC Letter

A barrage of high-profile artists have joined forces to present a unified voice in defense of net neutrality, issuing a statement in advance of the May 15th vote at the Federal Communications Commission. The proposal aims to open the floodgates of tiered access and restricted dissemination online, driven by the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable to jack up fees from websites for faster download speeds. 

The proposal has met a tidal wave of backlash, resulting in FCC head Tom Wheeler making topical amendments to the plan in hopes of getting it approved. Now artists such as Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe, Neko Case and more are vocally rejecting the idea that the companies who profit on the very access in question would set the rules of the public’s internet experience.

“The open Internet’s impact on the creative community cannot be overstated,” reads a letter signed by Fugazi, Jeff Magnum, Tom Morello and many others, including the aforementioned artists. “The Internet has enabled artists to connect directly with each other and with audiences. It has eliminated the barriers of geography and taken collaborations to new levels. And it has allowed people — not corporations — to seek out the film, music and art that moves them.”

The letter was organized by Future of Music Coalition and Free Press, two nonprofit advocacy groups who claim Wheeler’s plan would allow telecom giants “to pick winners and losers online and discriminate against online content and applications.”

In addition to director Oliver Stone, other artists signing on to the letter include Jello Biafra, Kimya Dawson, Fugazi, Kronos Quartet, David Lowery, Jeff Mangum, Mirah, Eric McKeown, Tom Morello, Thao Nguyen, OK Go, Ozomotali, Joe Perry, Jill Sobule, tUnE-yArDs, and YACHT, plus members of Antibalas, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the MC5, the Minus 5, Fat Wreck Chords, and comedians Judah Friedlander and Hari Kondabolu, among others. 

In an attempted defense, Wheeler wrote a blog post addressing “misinformation” and insisting the proposal wouldn’t allow “behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet.” The justification amounts to a thin sheen of corporatespeak, designed to soften the impact of the fact that with an absence of neutrality online, internet users will face unchecked costs and greed-driven control over free speech, social applications and all forms of digital media.