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Net Neutrality & Video Games

Feature; Jun. 4, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Subtypes: Opinion
How net neutrality could impact the world of video games

Net Neutrality is a concept that is starting to filter into the minds of U.S. consumers everywhere. CNN has been posting articles recently about the potential legislative battle involving the concept of net neutrality. Heck, I even wrote a very lengthy one on my blog, but I don't purport for it to have all of the facts.

Net Neutrality

Basically, net neutrality states that the operator of a network should be neutral to the content flowing through it. This is directed primarily at Internet service providers (ISPs), as they are the ones that offer a connection to the Internet to all U.S. consumers. Recently, the Obama administration directed the FCC to start regulating Internet access in the United States so that the FCC could mandate net neutrality.

I, for one, am for net neutrality. I don't want my local ISP to be given a green light to extort money from large website operators or consumers themselves for access to particular websites. If I want to access CNN.com at home, then my ISP shouldn't be able to block or slow access to CNN until CNN or I pay them extra money for the right. See, U.S. consumers don't like things being taken away from them that they already have (see AT&T's new data plans for smartphones, for example).

Let's take a look at this from a gaming perspective. If net neutrality does not become the law of the land, my local ISP could declare that Xbox Live (or any other gaming service, for example) sucks up too much traffic on their networks. If that is the case, they could turn around and charge Microsoft money or refuse to allow Xbox Live traffic on their network. In this case, should Microsoft not pay, then I may potentially have no access to my online gaming service, unless I'm able to switch to another ISP that offers Xbox Live access.

Or said ISP could charge me for the right to access Xbox Live content. But aren't I already paying for that access? $50 per year to Microsoft these days... Hell, they could start charging me to access the Playstation Network, which is currently a free service from Sony. That would put it into the realm of paid services.

I doubt these kinds of things would happen, but you never know. The endgame here is that if net neutrality does not become mandated, then ISPs could very well start slowing or blocking access to any Internet-based service, and that includes online gaming networks. Just one more reason to write to your congressman (or congresswoman) to voice support for net neutrality.

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