If We Don't Want Gaming To Get More Expensive, We Need To Speak Up

If We Don't Want Gaming To Get More Expensive, We Need To Speak Up

Right now, American gamers have it good. Their internet providers might do some slimy things, but today they can access all the web has to offer without maxing out their credit cards. If they don't want that to change, they're going to have to fight.

For years now, the big American broadband companies such as Verizon and Comcast have been fighting against net neutrality, or the idea that all websites and online services are equal, and that internet providers do not have the right to throttle speeds for some services over others. Without regulations enforcing net neutrality, a company like Time Warner Cable could go to Microsoft and say something like "hey, we're going to make Xbox Live run more slowly unless you pay us more" or "hey, we're going to make the PlayStation Network faster than Xbox Live unless you pay us more."

Any of those extra costs would of course trickle down to customers, making regular hobbies — Netflix, online gaming and who knows what else — significantly more expensive.

The US government has spoken out in favour of net neutrality, but last night reports emerged that the Federal Communications Commission had reversed positions — under the FCC's new guidelines, according to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, internet providers could offer a "fast lane" and give preferential treatment to companies willing to pay.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler responded this morning, calling the news reports "incorrect" in a frustratingly vague blog post that doesn't actually deny what those very reports claimed. "The proposal would establish that behaviour harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted," Wheeler wrote. "The allegation that it will result in anti-competitive price increases for consumers is also unfounded."

The FCC has not yet released its new "Open Internet Rules" guidelines, but if those reports are correct the implications are alarming for anyone who doesn't want greedy, consumer-hostile corporations clogging internet services that don't want to pay.

What's becoming increasingly obvious is that we — normal people who already pay way too much to play games online — need to speak up. We need to make it clear that this is unacceptable. In 2007, US presidential candidate Barack Obama vowed to support net neutrality — and we need to hold him to that promise.

"I am a strong supporter of net neutrality," Obama said then. "What you've been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you're getting information over the internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different websites... And that I think destroys one of the best things about the internet — which is that there is this incredible equality there."

It's easy to be pessimistic and assume that this battle is out of our hands — that greed will win out — but it's just as easy to contact the FCC. It's easy to email Tom Wheeler and tell him this isn't OK. It might not feel like we have a lot of options, but we have at least one: We can get our voices out there. We can speak up.


Comments

    One more thing that troubles me is that it seems ISPs will be moving forward to providing services with data caps, altogether removing unlimited data which doesn't benefit anyone, anywhere. The ISP industry is one of the greediest I've ever seen, and they must be put in check worldwide.

    You cannot just 'create' an internet Fast Lane. Things are only 'fast' when they are compared to something slower. Right now, all content is accessed as fast as technology allows. To allow someone to have faster than others, that means either inventing something faster and not sharing it, or making others slower.

    It really is that simple. These assholes pretending otherwise is a direct insult to your intelligence.

    Last edited 25/04/14 12:34 pm

      You can create a 'Fast Lane' actually..... In exactly the same way that cities create bus lanes, they just do so at the expense of the other lanes which become busier. [Not saying bus lanes are bad, just an example ;-) ]

      By throttling all traffic to/from youtube, for example, you suddenly free up more bandwidth for other services which may have paid more for unthrottled access.

      In reality, the result will be that what we currently have will get slower, while having to pay to keep things at full speed.

      It's a really dangerous [and fucked up] precedent to set. It isn't just about bandwidth, either. An open, free internet is what has allowed the internet to become what it is today. We currently have an environment which allows any new technology or company to have equal access to infrastructure. Putting the big companies in charge means that they will then be able to direct how the internet is shaped, thus giving them the ability to stifle anyone who threatens their profit margins, a complete internet oligarchy.

        But wouldn't companies like Microsoft and Sony pay for certain levels of bandwidth already? Any business can choose to buy a faster connection or opt to go for a plain old residential-quality connection. Leaving aside physical limitations in different areas, aren't we all able to pay for faster or slower connections? Maybe there's something I'm missing.

      Did you read the article? "Fast lane" is just a nickname. What they're trying to do is to in fact create several slowed-down lanes to sell the unhampered ones to the best bid.

    Australia is screwed anyway sue to NBN plans. Since the change is official, it will take many years to get everything back on track to make customer rip offs harder to do.

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