When it comes to multiplayer first-person shooters, few items are more controversial than the season pass. After paying $59.99 for a base game, some companies expect you to pay up to $49.99 for upcoming additional content. Whether that extra content is worth it varies by game, but at least you have the option to play without it.
Now, imagine if instead of paying for extra content you had to pay your internet service provider for the privilege of just connecting to a server? It may seem far-fetched, but if your ISP is no longer subject to Title II regulation, you can kiss net neutrality and the ability to access all of the web at one price freely goodbye.
Net neutrality and gaming: How will the FCC dropping Title II classification of ISPs affect gamers?
The benefits to consumers of broadband being classified as a common carrier under Title II are numerous, but two, in particular, are essential for the future of online gaming and digital downloads.
Payments for network interconnection
Several years ago, Netflix built out a content delivery network to provide better streaming. When it asked Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) for a direct connection to their networks, those ISPs asked for payment. At the time, ISPs weren’t covered under Title II. Title II doesn’t ban interconnection fees, but it does include a major provision: Companies can file complaints against ISPs that violate a “just and reasonable” standard.
Netflix paid up, but after ISPs were classified as common carriers, other companies that were facing the same issue were able to settle their disputes against interconnection payments in a much more beneficial manner. With Title II gone, companies lose the ability to file complaints against prices that aren’t “just and reasonable,” and ISPs can — and will — end up charging anyone they can to connect to their networks.
What this could mean for gamers is shocking. The added cost of having to make interconnection payments is going to be passed on to the consumer. This could manifest in an overall increase in video game prices. The new standard price for a big-budget game could end up being $69.99 or higher — up from the current $59.99 standard cost.
ISPs could also start charging for time. Imagine having to purchase a subscription for Battlefield or Call of Duty like they were World of Warcraft, or having to buy playtime by the hour because your ISP blocks or throttles Activision and EA’s servers. Time Warner Cable (Spectrum) is being sued in New York for throttling League of Legends players until Riot Games agreed to pay extra, so there’s already a precedent for this sort of thing happening.
Data caps could also become more commonplace. Comcast is already using them in most markets, though they still have to follow the “just and reasonable” standard. Title II protections also protect consumer’s abilities to file complaints to the FCC, but if those go away, then the ability of the FCC to enforce standards is curtailed.
Besides the standard annoyances of data caps, gamers are especially affected. All those huge downloads on Steam, PSN, Xbox Live and other digital marketplaces aren’t too big a deal. Sure most in the United States are stuck with paltry internet speeds since ISPs refuse to use the funding they’ve received from the government to build out modern networks, but at least the tap of crappy internet never runs dry. However, as pointed out earlier, Comcast is already trying to limit your access to the net, and if other ISPs think they can get away with it, they will too.
All those great 4K graphics that you keep seeing touted with the Xbox One X, PlayStation 4 Pro and PC are going to go out the window if data caps become a standard. As of right now, Comcast has ported almost all of their customers to a “Terabyte Data Usage Plan.” A Terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes of data. Modern games are regularly clocking in at around 50 GBs, and one upcoming Xbox One exclusive, Forza Motorsport 7 is going to be a little under 100 GBs. It’s easy to see that even though Comcast touts their terabyte data cap as being good enough for the 99% of their customers that supposedly don’t use a Terabyte a month, that’s going to change as 4K resolution becomes the new standard.
One of the advantages of digital marketplaces is supposed to be their ease of access. You can download your gaming library whenever you choose. However, if the FCC drops Title II classification for ISPs, you can be sure that you’ll be paying more for the unlimited access you have now. Comcast is already charging customers $50 extra a month for unlimited data, and there’s not much stopping other ISPs from doing the same besides fear of the protection consumers have under Title II.
What can I do?
If you think data caps and ISPs holding the services and products you want hostage is bad (hint: you should), then you can make your voice heard. You can go to battleforthenet.com, which will help you write a letter stating your feelings about net neutrality and Title II protections and send it to your Congress member and the FCC. There’s also info on the site about how to be more active in protesting the removal of Title II and what ISPs are doing to try to subvert the system for their advantage.
Net neutrality affects people around the globe, including gamers. For all the good and bad of it, the internet is something that belongs to all of humankind. Don’t let corporate greed bar entry to the rich world of online multiplayer and the convenience of the digital marketplace. Join the fight for net neutrality today.
More gaming news and updates
Check out the latest from Mic, like this essay about the sinister, subtle evils lurking in rural America that Far Cry 5 shouldn’t ignore. Also, be sure to read our review of Tekken 7, an article about D.Va’s influence on one Overwatch player’s ideas about femininity and an analysis of gaming’s racist habit of darkening villains’ skin tones.