Whether or not you agree with his choices on healthcare or Iran or what color tie he wears doesn’t really matter here, but the President voicing an opinion on the important matter of net neutrality is important for normal people. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows that it is a game of sound bites and back-door agreements; US Presidents, for all the “good” or “bad” they do, are as much a figurehead as a political force. When a world leader takes a stand on a specific issue, this gives the issue more relevance in the media and polarizes all sides. This also influences other nations. When there is a significantly-divided government, like the US has faced in recent years, it can feel as if folks who disagree with one Presidential action typically choose to disagree with all of them. Stupid and dumbed-down, perhaps, but that’s my decades of observing politics in a nutshell. There's good news, though, and it has to do with the tech industry.
The positive impact from a US President officially taking a stance on net neutrality – in addition to bringing more light to the issue – is that it gives those in a supportive position a chance to act more “bravely,” for lack of a better term. This is seen most clearly by the FCC calling “bullshit” on AT&T’s sudden claim that Net Neutrality makes it financially unfeasible for them to provide good and modern internet service to their users in 100 cities. Jamillia Ferris, a former anti-trust lawyer and currently the person leading the review of the AT&T/DirecTV deal, released a letter yesterday to AT&T. The letter calls their bluff and asks for proof of their claims to defend a refusal of providing fiber optic lines to clients. The tactic AT&T was using is something that major companies have done often, “penalize” the people to force the politicians to dance to their tune.
The FCC can penalize AT&T much more by preventing the upcoming sale of DirecTV or hindering it if ATT does not comply with the previous agreements made. The FCC has given AT&T 1 week only to provide the information demanded by Ferris. We'd imagine collating such data is no quick task and makes it much harder to “order studies,” as they are citing it is already unprofitable, meaning studies are already done.
Comcast’s CEO also came out “in favor” of Net Neutrality, except for the whole Neutrality part of it. He pays lip service to it needing to be done, but doesn’t like the way Obama is trying to enforce it by wanting it to be reclassified as a utility. Why is this important? Well, Comcast is already charging Netflix for preferential treatment. They would have to stop doing this if Obama’s endorsement pushes lawmakers and the FCC to actually do what it should have with the IPs quite some time ago. I doubt this will affect Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner Cable at all, but it will be interesting to see how things progress next.
The fight isn't over yet, but it is finally in our favor. The best thing that you can do -- as gamers and professionals who require fair, fast internet -- is inform yourselves on the issues at hand. It's also worth poking the (new) local politicians with a brief call; tell the intern that you support net neutrality and the classification of the internet as a utility, they'll tick your voice down with the others.
Check out these links for more on this issue:
https://www.eff.org/ - Electronic Frontier Foundation. They fight for the internet and do a phenomenal job of it. GN openly supports EFF.
http://www.redditblog.com/2014/05/only-you-can-protect-net-neutrality_13.html - Reddit’s post on how to contact lawmakers and what to say (this is especially big as a large number of new political placeholders have been voted in and should be hounded to listen to what we all want… and it works surprisingly well as most of them want to maintain a career in politics).
http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ - House of Representatives (be polite, be clearly spoken, be patient; it's probably an intern answering the phone, so we advise that callers plainly state their demands in a short fashion).
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact - The President's people (let them know we appreciate his stance and back him up… it is not easy taking sides on something important and positive/constructive support goes a long way to motivating people to continue to fight for us).
As more interesting parts of Net Neutrality take shape, we’ll keep you informed. Remember, do what you can now so you don’t regret the inaction later.
- Scott "Abibiliboop" Griffin.