While President Obama is being all but vilified by broadband operators Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VZ) for asserting that the Internet be regulated like a public utility, the real countering force for the country's largest telecommunications companies lies in Silicon Valley in the headquarters of the world's largest Internet content providers.
Comcast, Charter and Verizon speak out on net neutrality risk, watch the video below for details:Must Read: Fox Becomes Latest TV Network Hit by Weaker Ad Sales
"People have long underestimated the political pressure that an aggregate of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn ( LNKD) , Netflix, AOL ( AOL) , Yahoo! ( YHOO) and a lot of others have had in pressuring politicians to reconsider their 'net neutrality' stand," said Anthony Wible, media analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, in a phone interview from New Jersey. "You really have to question if the pressure from voters is starting to change that momentum away from the broadband and cable-operators."
Obama on Monday weighed into the already contentious debate over government regulation of the Internet at a time when the Federal Communications Commission is debating, and attempting to write, new rules that oversee how the Web is administered. Obama said that while he opposes rate regulation, he wants the FCC to write rules to prevent broadband operators from blocking, slowing or creating "fast lanes," so-called paid prioritization for users willing to pay higher fees.
Because Google, Facebook, Netflix and about 30 other large content and content distribution companies account for more than half of all Internet traffic, they want to limit the ability of Internet Service Providers led by Comcast and Verizon to control which content moves at what speed and at what price. Advocates for start-up companies similarly worry that they wouldn't be able to compete with larger, wealthier companies that dominate their industries if they're forced to pay extra for speed and access.
Obama's decision to speak out on net neutrality, the principle that all broadband users regardless of size or wealth be treated equally, follows more than a year of public rallies held in Washington by advocacy groups that have coordinated e-mail campaigns that have generated more than 4 million messages to the FCC in favor of expanded government oversight. The rants of comedian John Oliver, host of the popular Last Week Tonight with John Oliver show on Time Warner's (TWX) HBO, in favor of net neutrality have led to the FCC's Web site crashing not once but twice.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, more publicly than other CEOs in Silicon Valley, has repeatedly called for the FCC to enact rules that support net neutrality. In March in a blog post, Hastings insisted that the commission enact rules so that "AT&T (T) and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make."