President-Elect Barack Obama has appointed University of Michigan law professor Susan Crawford and Wharton School professor Kevin Werbach to the Federal Communications Commission Review team; as such, they'll be reviewing US government telecommunication policy and advising changes as the Obama Administration takes over. Crawford and Werbach are passionate advocates of net neutrality. "This bodes very very well indeed for American telcoms policy!" enthuses Net freedom advocate Cory Doctorow.
Indeed it does. So does this fact: they're both Second Life Residents. Not regular users, most likely, but even more significant, well-versed in its potential and its broader importance. Here's Crawford, writing about Second Life on her blog:
I'm not a very agile presence in Second Life just yet; if you see an avatar spinning and gesturing meaninglessly, that's me... Artists and all sorts of other people have adopted the SL language, and they're producing like mad. They're building museums and stores and planes and taxis, both individually and in groups. Cory [Ondrejka] says a big bump in productivity happened after SL announced it was giving IP rights to subscribers in their creations... So I'm a huge fan of Second Life, and I hope to be able to figure out how to talk to the people there at some point.
And Werbach, explaining to BusinessWeek why he added a video stream into SL from the Supernova conference he founded:
We have had a long-standing interest in massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and, with the Connected Innovators program, we wanted to experiment with the idea of a virtual showcase. Virtual worlds like Second Life are an extraordinary playground; they give you tremendous freedom to experiment, which is why they are so exciting.
What's this mean for Second Life and OpenSim? Of course, as a bandwidth-heavy application, net neutrality is an important topic for the metaverse. But other government policy issues under their purview, including intellectual property law online and content regulation, are also crucial. What happens after the transition remains to be seen, of course, but for the first time, US government officials who might have a direct impact on the future of the metaverse are fully aware of why it matters.