Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Net Neutrality and Online Poker – Why It Matters

The Verizon edition of the game, I think...
I have been putting off writing a post about the elections, for a variety of reasons.  I got back from
vacation a few days after the event went down (I voted by mail long before I left, so yes, I did my duty).  I kinda knew how it was gonna go down – no real surprises (Dems had a very slim chance in holding the Senate, and my state – Oregon – is still pretty blue).  Oh, and a good number of state-based progressive initiatives succeeded (pot, minimum wage, defeat of “person-hood” amendments), so I had nothing to bark about except the process itself, which has been dealt with by others more politically bent than I.

And with the final table of the World Series of Poker on tap for the first two days of the week, I knew that fellow online-poker-advocates would be lax in attention (not to mention tired as hell if the event lasted as long as it did last year).  But something happened on Monday that made a political/election/poker post a sure thing…”Net Neutrality” was back in the news again.

For those unfamiliar with the subject, a good, mostly-unbiased primer can be had here.  Monday’s news – Obama reaffirming his support of neutrality with a call to relabel the Internet a “utility” and Ted Cruz’s “Obamacare for the Internet” rejoinder – once again brings our attention to how Washington REALLY works.  I don’t mean everything Obama supports the GOP distains…Net Neutrality is something that most Americans support, from left AND right.  This, like re-establishing online poker, isn’t a left/right thing.

It’s a money thing.  That’s how Washington works nowadays.

Yes, 90%+ of incumbents win re-election.  More importantly, when there is no incumbent, the candidate who spends more is 80% more likely to win.  Money talks.
Average middle-class Americans have little voice in the political process, except the potential of asking one question at a campaign tally or town hall meeting with their representative.  Rich folks buy $1,000-per-plate dinners and gab at length with their rep. Money talks.  Richer folks still help write new legislation for their reps while handling out campaign contributions, and making still more “dark” contributions to various nefarious political action groups.  Money talks.  The U.S. Congress is the world’s most exclusive “millionaires club,” with more than half of Senators and Representatives worth more than a million bucks.  Money talks.

Sheldon Adelson.  Money talks.

Net Neutrality is all about money, and its implications for online poker, besides the obvious (online poker uses the Internet – duh), are enormous.  I’m no techy, but considering that part of the debate centers on bandwidth and usage, I would have to assume that interactive software like a poker room (and multi-tabling at that) might take up some considerable width.  If big users get charged more, couldn’t that make online poker less profitable, ergo less desirable, ergo less likely to see re-established?  Just askin’ is all.

And if there are to be “Guardians of the Internet” (called Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast), what is to stop them from making decisions as to who goes on which tier based on considerations having nothing to do with band usage?  Sure, they debate rests there for now, but say someone like, oh…Sheldon Adelson decides to invest in Comcast, and say they decide that it’s not really censorship but consumer protection to divest their Internet tubes of pornography, medical marijuana dispensary information, and online gaming websites?  I know this is hypothetical and a bit far-fetched, because to my knowledge Adelson doesn’t have anything against pornography.

This issue is important, not just for online poker folks, but all Americans.  It’s as fine of an example as any where the will of the people is seemingly thwarted by the desire of a few LARGE multi-corporations.  And what is their desire?

Money.  Pure and simple. Talking LOUD.

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