← Return to Blog
 Net Neutrality

What Is Net Neutrality and How Does it Impact Gaming?

By: Katie Fishman, Outfox Marketing Manager 

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "net neutrality" by now. It's been dominating the news, as the anticipated date the FCC will repeal the guidelines, December 14, approaches. The conversation has been going on for quite some time, with a large scale effort to save net neutrality beginning back in July of this year. While frequently talked about in relation to the internet and streaming services, net neutrality provisions have great implications for gaming as well. Below we take a look at what net neutrality provisions - and their impending repeal - will mean for all the gamers out there.

What Is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is, in brief, a principle that protects a free and open Internet. Net neutrality guidelines, currently implemented under something called Title ll which was instituted by the FCC in 2015, ensures that all Internet traffic is treated equally. In other words, it prevents Internet service providers from prioritizing or otherwise discriminating against traffic, so that all content and connections receive a consistent speed and access. Net neutrality guidelines prohibit providers from prioritizing certain content or speeding up and slowing down speeds depending on what an Internet user is doing. Golden Frog (the company behind Outfox) has some great resources available to learn more.

How Does Rolling Back Net Neutrality Impact the Gaming Industry?

So what does net neutrality mean for the gaming industry? More than you might think. A lack of competition may leave gamers without options for their internet service providers, subjecting them to a "pay to play" model in which they would have to pay more for bandwidth or access to certain sites or services. So much gaming takes place online that any change to internet service could have widespread implications.

Here are some examples of how an internet without net neutrality could impact the gaming industry:

Speed

  • Gamers could be forced to either pay more or experience slower speeds when playing their favorite online games
  • Gamers could be throttled - or intentionally slowed down - for doing too much gaming
  • Those watching streams on Twitch, or actually streaming themselves, could also be throttled. Currently, providers have been known to throttle those watching too much streaming TV like Netflix, so without provisions this would only expand
  • If speeds are unequal, some players might have an advantage or disadvantage

Access

  • Without net neutrality, ISPs could make deals with content providers - prioritizing traffic to certain sites (or blocking access to others entirely) based upon those they have relationships with (for example, if an ISP owned a content provider they could choose to send traffic there or speed up traffic there as it would impact their bottom line
  • Per the statement above, smaller titles or publishers could suffer, if they were unable to pay more for bandwidth, access or speed (larger publishers have the ability to pay more) and traffic to larger content providers was prioritized
  • Download speeds - or data caps - could be impacted for users trying to download their favorite titles
  • Competition could be reduced depending which sites are easily accessible or not 

Gaming Communities Speak Up To Support Net Neutrality

Many in the gaming community are fighting back in an effort to save important net neutrality provisions. Here are a few examples:

At Outfox, our parent company Golden Frog has been fighting for open Internet access for years. You can visit their website to view their efforts. 

Learn More About Gaming & Net Neutrality

PC GamerGames IndustryVentureBeatGame RevolutionForbes