I’m not a fear monger. I usually approach each situation with a calm head and try to rationalize my way through it. After seeing what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has planned for December’s vote on Title II protections concerning ISPs, I have to admit I’m a little scared. The whole games industry has become heavily dependent on the internet. From digital marketplaces to patches and playing online, being a gamer depends on unfettered—and unlimited—access to the web.
Pai’s new plan basically undoes all the work that went into finally bringing ISPs under Title II, which ensures we receive service without preferential treatment for specific entities. According to Pai, it should be the Federal Trade Commission’s job to prevent unfair business practices by ISPs, but we’ve already seen that fail in the years before Title II protections came into effect.
In many, if not most, areas of the United States customers only have one—or sometimes two—choices for internet. Most of us are effectively locked into a monopoly because the FTC seems to think we have enough choice. If our ISP is engaging in unfair business practices, then we just have to deal with it under Pai’s plan. Supposedly public outcry and the FTC are going to make everything okay. Verizon and Comcast have applauded the return to a “light-touch regulatory framework” and claim that the FCC’s net neutrality measures were stifling innovation.
Well, you can bet some new “innovations” will affect gamers after Title II is gone. Before ISPs beat around the bush with throttling connections and preferentially treatment for companies that paid them. However, Pai’s repeal of Title II is all but an official endorsement by the US government to screw customers in any way of which they can think.
If you think EA is evil, wait till Comcast, Spectrum, Charter, AT&T, and Verizon start sticking it to you. Loot boxes will be a walk in the park compared to the extra charges and hoops you’ll have to jump through to enjoy gaming online. Imagine that you can only play games online from certain publishers without paying extra. That’s the fate that awaits us. Under Pai’s plan, Activision, EA, Valve, or whoever can pay an ISP for preferential treatment. That treatment doesn’t have to mean they just get faster connections either; it can mean their competition gets throttled.
Soon you may have to pay extra to your ISP per month to open the ports on your connection to even let you connect to Steam, Origin, Uplay, Xbox Live, PSN, and other gaming services. You might have to deal with a gaming traffic allotment you have to refill with cash. For those that were on the internet in the 1990s, this might be familiar. Remember when you had to pay for dial-up by the hour? We could be heading back to that same concept.
Without Title II protections ISPs can sniff your traffic and block or throttle whatever they want, and you’ll be stuck unless you want to pay more. Worst-case scenario, websites will start being bundled like cable channels, which will make online gaming the least of our worries.
It’s not over yet though. Make your voice heard. If you’re a US citizen, you can click on the image above or go to Battle for the Net for help on contacting your state representatives. For those outside of the US, please continue to show your support in any way you can. We have until December to let the FCC and the federal government know that we want our internet just how it is: impartial.