Does "Net Neutrality" Mean a Golden Highway Paved By Gamers?

Illustration for article titled Does "Net Neutrality" Mean a Golden Highway Paved By Gamers?

Though today's much-discussed proposal was long on talk of transparency, there are two loopholes in Google and Verizon's plan for "Net Neutrality" rules, and, yep, one of them covers "gaming options."

Advertisement

The Google/Verizon statement is long on airy principles and does a good job genuflecting to the idea that all consumers have access that isn't throttled or curbed because it competes with their broadband provider. But it also proposes allowing broadband providers "to offer additional, differentiated online services" that they can either charge extra for, limit access to, or require specific equipment to access. "New entertainment and gaming options," are one.

To this layperson, it sounds somewhat like cable TV albeit in reverse; content providers might be willing to pay a broadband provider a premium to get their channel onto a cleaner, faster - and toll-driven - info highway. That cost is then going to be passed along, surely, to customers somehow.

I'm not a futurist or a businessman, but it seems that this could give a figleaf to a console online service provider to charge extra or open a super-gold pipeline delivering the same stuff you're already getting either free or at the standard rate.

And it would be up to the customer to know if sticking with the free, open Internet that Google and Verizon advocate still delivers the full experience he or she wants. Or it could be that certain gold-level gaming services are moved entirely to what some already are calling this "private Internet."

Online gaming represents enormous bandwidth and is a use that will only grow. Four years ago, the file size of an Xbox Live Arcade game was capped at 50 MB, then it went to 250 MB, and 450 MB, and on and on. The Madden NFL 11 demo was 1.5 GB. Full titles on both Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation Network are in excess of 2 GB, and let's not forget the PC titles delivered over Steam, Direct2Drive, GamersGate and more. A "private Internet" would certainly see a growth market in gaming.

Wherever this is headed, Google and Verizon carry a ton of weight with Washington and a proposal to play fair from the private sector is much more palatable to a political climate that reflexively demonizes pretty much any regulatory structure, especially of a new commodity.

Advertisement

But will it benefit gamers, or just suck up more of their money? This bears watching.

Google and Verizon Propose Net Neutrality Rules [MSNBC]

DISCUSSION

BigManMalone
BigManMalone

Net-neutrality is an unqualifyingly evil doctrine.

The whole premise of this article is wrong. While it is valid to speculate on what net-neutrality or its absence may mean, it is immoral to base your support of, or opposition to, it on whether it will benefit you in the narrow, short-term, video-game arena. That is complete pragmatism, a forsaking of principles.

The reason net-neutrality is evil is because it destroys rights. Net neutrality is the concept that companies who provide you with your connection to the internet have no right in saying how they provide that connection, a connection they do not force you to buy, but work to provide. It is saying that if a website pays a provider to give it preference in terms of loading speed, that will be disallowed in order to keep all content "neutrally" accessible. An equal-access internet is not per se bad, but forcing companies to provide it is. A company may provide it if it wants to, but if it does not, you have every right to go to a different company that does support equal-access. If none do, however, then that is just how it is, and still does not give you the right to make a company provide all content equally, because, to quote, "need does not establish right." In other words, your need for something does not oblige someone else to provide it for you, because having such a system necessitates slavery. Someone has to provide it if you deserve it but cannot make it yourself, and that person does not get paid, since you have nothing to offer for it, otherwise you would not be in need.

Here is a perfect analogy of net-neutrality. Microsoft charges Wal-mart less for its stock of Xbox 360s (in effect paying Wal-mart) in return for Wal-mart's making 360s more available and featured in displays in its electronics section, and hence 360s are available more often and more saliently for customers than PS3s or Wiis are. Would anyone complain about a company's right to do this? Maybe some crazy people would, but the fact that so many less would be willing to say that Microsoft should not be allowed by law to do it shows net-neutrality proponents' lack of principle. They have no distinguishing principle that says "this is good" and "this is bad," or "this is ok" and "this is not." So many advocates of net-neutrality would not even bat an eyelash at the exact same principle being played out in a different setting, and even if they knew would likely hardly oppose it. That is because all they care about is the short-term, and not about the long-term and being consistent.

This may be surprising, but just because you like video games does not mean you have to support every destructive policy that is purportedly "pro-video games," just as every woman does not have to support every "pro-female" piece of legislation, and every other group does not have to support its own narrow, short-term "interests" at the expense of everyone's rights. Being a responsible citizen means being a sentinel of all rights, on principle, not circling like a vulture and devouring the first carrion of discarded rights you can find, and in fact agitating for their discarding. This is the problem that James Madison referred to when he spoke of factions. When the founders discussed groups fighting for their own interest over the "common good," what they meant was not the material good of society, but the equal protection to which all are entitled. They feared that short-range thinkers would organize groups to attack the rights of some in order to gain short-term benefits. That is exactly what net-neutrality proponents, and everyone who invokes force, does when they petition the government to see to their own pet causes. The overriding interest of everyone, however, is equal protection from physical force, but net-neutrality supporters want force, the force of the government, to require that companies not only refrain from using force themselves, but that they become victims of it.

If you really think the "public good" is the standard by which you should measure a law, and that no one has rights, only permissions, then what argument will you possibly be able to make when someone comes demanding your sacrifice for the "greater good"?