Report: FCC is About to Dismantle Net Neutrality, Bad News for Gaming

Forget SOPA, PIPA, CISPA and any other acronyms you might have feared jeopardizing the future of the Internet — the only one you need to worry about today is “FCC.”

According to reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, both citing unnamed sources, the Federal Communications Commission is about to reverse its stance on net neutrality and allow Internet service providers the ability to create service “fast lanes,” which will allow content in those lanes to be loaded faster and more easily than the rest of the Internet.

Basically, the idea is that ISPs will be able to negotiate with content providers, like Netflix, Xbox Live and GameFront, for access to preferential treatment for their content. Imagine Sony paying ISPs for faster download times to their users for the Playstation Network, while Microsoft opts not to — suddenly, PSN runs great and Xbox Live runs like crap, and Microsoft can’t compete with Sony unless it ponies up. The same can apply to streaming services and other companies. Net neutrality advocates have maintained for years that a divided Internet will be disastrous for the Internet economy, but it looks like we’re about to get it anyway.

According to The Wall Street Journal report, “The FCC’s proposal would allow some forms of discrimination while preventing companies from slowing down or blocking specific websites….” Just what that discrimination would be, however, isn’t clear.

The change could also a big problem for everyone on the Internet, as it’s going to mean a rise in the price of doing business for all kinds of services. Some that can’t foot the bill will likely go out of business; others will need to raise their prices to consumers, passing the cost on to you. It’s particularly problematic for gaming, since online play and digital distribution can take up a lot of bandwidth. With the rise in costs in order to maintain speedy access to content, expect gaming to be even more expensive, as you pay your ISP for access while content providers also pay your ISP for your access.

What’s particularly galling about the entire scenario is the fact that the FCC has been on the side of net neutrality for quite some time, and only recently began to flag. That started with the appointment of Tom Wheeler as head of the commission in November, 2013. Before that, he served as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, working for telecommunications interests like cable and cellular phone companies, for almost 40 years. He also managed hedge funds that specialized in investing in Internet protocol and telecom companies.

It hasn’t taken Wheeler long to adjust the FCC’s thinking, either — he was appointed by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate less than six months ago.

Net neutrality was already in a bit of hot water earlier this year after a U.S. appeals court had ruled against some of the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality rules as they applied to Internet service providers. The court’s ruling seemed likely to have the effect of driving the FCC to draft new regulations that would meet the court’s scrutiny; instead, it seems the FCC is going to abandon them altogether and pull a 180 on the idea of an open Internet.

After the appeals court struck down the FCC’s net neutrality rules, advocates used the White House’s website to create a petition pushing for new net neutrality rules to be created. The White House responded by reaffirming its commitment to net neutrality, but stated that the FCC is an independent agency. Wheeler himself wrote a blog post in January following the ruling, which attempted to allay fears people were expressing that the ruling would mean the eventual dismantling of the open Internet.

If the NYT and WSJ reports turn out to be true, it’ll be a dark day for the Internet at large. You can read more about Net Neutrality and the possible repercussions in the excellent post our Ross Lincoln wrote on the subject earlier this year, right here.


Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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5 Comments on Report: FCC is About to Dismantle Net Neutrality, Bad News for Gaming

pooleboy87

On April 23, 2014 at 8:45 pm

I’m just…tired. The way the federal government treats policy these days has just destroyed me. I can barely muster up anything beyond just numb sadness as they push for and give and legislate to ensure that more and more is given to business particularly a very large subset of business that just so happens to donate to these legislators, and the public at large loses more and more in the sake of commerce.

I don’t know how to fight it anymore. I don’t know how to get people who are CLEARLY no longer interested in the best interests of the country back on the right path. I don’t know how to get the people elected to represent us, to protect our interests, to understand what they’re taking from us with every move like this that they make.

It’s incessantly disheartening. So, Time Warner, AT&T, and Comcast…you win. Clearly the people who matter are on your side.

lol

On April 23, 2014 at 11:23 pm

In short, Netflix users ed it up for the rest of us.

Dave

On April 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Well I am not american but this still disgusts me… I hope the british govenment doesn’t follow suit…

Byke

On April 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Sadly Dave, I think your hopes are misplaced given that they previously supported ACTA and are also trying to force ISPs to ban pornography unless users choose to opt in, a massive slippery slope that also undermines the importance of personal responsibility and parenting. Not that Labour would be any better since under Blair’s government we saw the biggest increase in surveillance and tracking in living memory. Another reason to vote for either UKIP or the Green Party next year, a true choice between libertarianism and socialism instead of the identikit corporate wankfest that currently serves as our three-party system.

quicktooth

On April 26, 2014 at 3:45 am

So I’m just sitting around, watching the end of the free world. Playing a game or two, getting achievements in them. And every time I turn my head to check the news, the world is closer to a cyberpunk, corporate dominated, dystopian future. It’s like the governments of the world have an actual checklist from the warnings of science fiction of the past, where every failure and every horror is made an explicit goal for society to reach. Then they make them happen. Weather going out of control, impending resource and economic collapse (and the wars that come from them), rampant spying and censorship in a true Big Brother system, corporate controlled beliefs and feelings (just think about standards of beauty and hte “beauty products”). Hell- we’re even at the start of cybernetics and tech invisibility cloaks.

We’re sort of in that strange period where there’s already no morality and no concern about anything, but the technology hasn’t quite got astounding yet and the total collapse hasn’t quite happened. Didn’t Red Versus Blue say something like that, years ago? The writing is and was (sometimes literally) on the wall. The science fiction, the worst science fiction, is coming true. Did we need more decades to plan? Did we need harder rock and roll? “And there we were all in one place, a generation lost in space, with no time left to start again” and “do you believe in rock and roll, can music save your mortal soul”, indeed.

I’m motivated and willing to act but it’s so hard for me to just do normal things (why thank you, modern medicine, for NOTHING.) I can’t also fight the Whole Society sh!t going on. Has everyone just given up on us as people and as societies while I’ve been ‘out’? Sh!t. We need some kind of Faith In Humanity Week, like that one humour site did a while back. I’d sure like to know about some good news, or at least some happy stuff. We need as a world to get our spirit back. On that note, Dark Souls 2 has plenty of despairing people telling you you’ll fail, even as you get more and more powerful and solve all the problems there are in the game…