Net neutrality is one of the great issues facing modern society, at least as far as the Internet is concerned, but it has been consistently held back by one small problem: It’s kind of hard to understand. We know Netflix is one of the good guys, and it wants to make sure that everyone’s House Of Cards binges don’t get interrupted this weekend by slow download speeds. On the other side, as always, are the cable companies and Internet providers who think they can get richer and richer by systematically destroying everything that brings us happiness—like, you know, the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on net neutrality this Thursday but, frankly, we’re still a bit confused.
Luckily, we don’t have to understand any of this, because a bunch of awesome music people have gotten together to announce how they feel about net neutrality, and so we might as well just agree with them. So how awesome are these music people? Well, they’re about as awesome as it gets, and they’ve all signed an open letter to the FCC that pledges their support for net neutrality. The list includes such big names as Jeff Tweedy, Kathleen Hanna, all of Death Cab For Cutie, all of R.E.M., Ted Leo, some of The Decemberists (what’s up Colin?), and even Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum (often referred to as the “J.D. Salinger of open letters to the FCC”).
How could net neutrality’s opponents, like Republican Senator John Thune, top that? Has he ever recorded an album that’s as good as In The Aeroplane Over The Sea? Is he even referred to as the J.D. Salinger of anything? Look, we’re not saying you should base every decision you make on what a bunch of alternative rockers have to say, but it couldn’t possibly hurt to consult them every once in a while—even if most of their advice will be to retire from public life for long periods of time.
The full letter, which is addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, is below. Make sure to hit “ctrl+f” to find your favorite musicians!
Dear Chairman Wheeler:
We write to you at a crucial moment for net neutrality, as we probably don’t have to remind you. We understand that your position can be thankless and that it is difficult to take a stand for what is right when there is so much pressure from powerful interests and their political allies. As musicians and composers, we want to thank you for moving forward with strong net neutrality rules. As so many creators have already noted, reclassification under Title II is the best way to ensure that the Internet remains open for us to build businesses, reach audiences and earn a living in what is a challenging marketplace for creative content.
You certainly have our appreciation. And we urge you to remain steadfast in your efforts to keep the Internet a viable platform for creative entrepreneurs. Without clear and enforceable rules that let us compete alongside the biggest companies, our ability to create and innovate will be threatened, if not extinguished.
Please don’t be fooled by those trying to turn this issue into a partisan grudge match. Not only do recent polls show that some 80 percent of conservatives back your plan, the creative community—which includes folks of all political dispositions—is equally supportive. The reason is simple: creators of all genres and backgrounds will benefit from the protections your proposal would enshrine. Net neutrality is not only a powerful engine of creative expression and civic discourse, it is the very oxygen of a free and competitive marketplace built on technological and cultural innovation. And artists are drivers of both.
Artists have endured tremendous consolidation in the media marketplace that has limited opportunities for many to reach audiences and earn a living. We are sure that you probably don’t need to be reminded, but we’ll mention it anyway: there is a public interest imperative in preserving an open Internet and the creative sector is a huge part of this interest. It is our creativity that enriches culture and inspires the world in countless ways. The Internet is one of the greatest amplifiers of our contributions to society, and society benefits from access to a diverse array of lawful online content. While we await details of the specific provisions in your proposal, we are confident that you have chosen the proper framework with which to proceed.
We know that you will face political opposition and coordinated attacks from well-funded corporations. But isn’t it cooler to have us on your side than some giant ISP? We think so. And we’ll step up to defend your plan because we know it’s the right call, and we know you understand the importance of making it.
So we thank you, Chairman Wheeler. For listening to our perspectives and making some tough but crucial decisions. Now let’s get this thing over the finish line so that today and tomorrow’s artists can continue to enrich our culture and achieve excellence on our own terms.
Alastair Brown, Northcape
Alec Ounsworth, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Benji Rogers, Pledge Music
Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe of R.E.M.
Brett Lyman, co-owner of M’lady’s Records, Machu Picchu Records; musician, Hive Dwellers
Britt Daniel, Spoon
Cheston Knapp, writer/editor
Chris Funk, Nate Query, Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists
Damon & Naomi
David J., Bauhaus
Death Cab for Cutie
Dick Huey, Founder/CEO, Toolshed
Geoff Hing, Defiance, OH
Harry & The Potters
Jeff Mangum & Astra Taylor, Neutral Milk Hotel
Jeff Parker, guitarist/composer/jazz musician/member of Tortoise
Jeff & Spencer Tweedy
Jeremy Barnes & Heather Trost, A Hack & A Hacksaw
Joan of Arc
Joe Perry, Aerosmith
Joe Plummer, Modest Mouse, The Shins
Joe Steinhardt, Don Giovanni Records
John Askew, Producer/Engineer
Jon Solomon, WPRB / Comedy Minus One Records
Kathi Wilcox, The Julie Ruin, The Casual Dots
Ken Stringfellow & Jon Auer, The Posies
Ken Umezaki, Fifth of Bourbon
Kiran Gandhi, Drummer, M.I.A.
Kronos Quartet / Kronos Performing Arts Association
Kurt Wagner, Lambchop
Laura Ballance, bass player/ songwriter for Superchunk, label owner, Merge Records
Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth
Martin Perna, Antibalas
Merrill Garbus, tUnE-yArDs
Michael Wells, Dir. of Ops & Digital Light @ In The Attic Records,
Michael Slaboch, Producer / Sound Engineer
The New Pornographers
Oliver Kalb, Bellows
Sean Meadows, Everlasting the Way
Sohrab Habibion, Obits
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
Tony Perez, Editor, Tin House Books
Tucker Martine, Producer/Engineer
Wayne Kramer, MC5, Jail Guitar Doors