My Web Series Made Possible by Net Neutrality

My Web Series Made Possible by Net Neutrality

By Ruth Livier

I've been a working actress for years. But being an artist at heart, I was increasingly dissatisfied by the number and type of roles that were available to me. So in my quest to expand my job opportunities and income potential, I turned to writing. Insert laugh here. Yeah, that in itself didn't completely do the trick because I was still bumping up against the traditional Hollywood gatekeepers.

But then I discovered the power of the Web, and my world was suddenly full of possibilities. I could take my ideas and my talent online.

Initially, I created my Web series YLSE as a half-hour TV pilot, but quickly realized that even getting a meeting with media execs would be a fruitless battle. I was dissuaded many times from even trying.

After all, my show didn't naturally fit the cookie-cutter content that typically gets the green light. YLSE is a bicultural dramedy about a modern American Latina: someone with big dreams juggling a career, a not-so-successful love life and a family that sometimes doesn't understand her progressive American ways.

I wasn't surprised to hear the skepticism I inevitably encountered. "Who is going to watch this?" was always the first question I was asked. With no precedent for such programming, and a market geared toward content that can be resold in other, most notably European, markets, that question effectively ended any conversation. How could I possibly prove that there was an audience for my content if my show was never to see the light of day?

But the Internet changed everything, allowing me to create my show the way I envisioned it. My small startup's ability to prove a market was suddenly no longer an impossible proposition. Distribution was now available! So I brought together an extremely smart and talented group of friends and we got to work.

With a skeleton crew and production team, an amazing cast, a lot of sweat equity and a shoestring budget, we've been able to produce and distribute the award-winning indie series YLSE AND we've been able to prove our market: Our viewership has multiplied from a few thousand during season one to more than 500,000 halfway through season two... all on our zero marketing dollars.

On the Web, modest budgets are not an obstacle to content creation; access isn't readily denied by gatekeepers; and distribution is at our fingertips! Finally, we have the unique opportunity to compete based on the popularity and strength of our content and audiences' ability to find us.

Unfortunately, Internet service providers are lobbying hard to change all of this and keep opportunity in the hands of the few (as with traditional media). They want to block any attempts to safeguard the principle called "Net Neutrality," which allows the Internet to operate as it is - a level platform where anyone can create and distribute content. These companies spent $74 million in Washington in the first six months of 2009 alone and have 550 lobbyists making repeat visits to our government representatives in their aggressive push to control online content.

Allowing ISPs to construct barriers to entry or to offer advantages to those with the deepest pockets will only serve to derail the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that have driven the Internet since it was created -- the same freedom that allowed innovators to create the Web in the first place.

And let's not forget that the Internet itself is a government-funded innovation.

A neutral, nondiscriminatory Internet is a market-driven, equal playing field for all Americans regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic standing. It allows viewers to find the information and entertainment they want, without filters or gatekeepers. It is critical to the vitality of American public discourse and to our democracy.

To clarify, I am not a big government kind of gal. As an American citizen, I believe encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit and setting the foundations for free enterprise are fundamental to our economic success. And I also believe in equal opportunity for all.

The Web is the new land of opportunity. Its low barriers to entry encouraged me to take action. Now, in addition to being an actress/writer, I'm effectively a content creator/small-business owner and my show has worldwide distribution. Imagine that?! And this has only been possible thanks to the power and reach of a neutral, open, accessible, nondiscriminatory Internet that drives innovation and encourages the independent American entrepreneurial spirit.

The FCC is in the process of making a rule that would protect Net Neutrality. They are accepting public comments on the rule until January 14. File your comments today, and join the nearly 2 million people who support Net Neutrality at Save

About Ruth Livier: Ruth Livier was recently featured on the cover of Written By, the WGA's (Writers Guild of America) magazine, as the first person to join the writers' union for her work in New Media. Her award-winning dramedy "Ylse" (, now in its second season, is produced under film and television industry unions SAG (Screen Actors Guild), DGA (Directors Guild of America) and the WGA. Prior to her work on the web, Ms. Livier garnered recognition for her screen, stage and voice-over work. Her starring role in the groundbreaking TV series "Resurrection Blvd." earned a Best Actress ALMA Awards nomination and a win for the show.