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FCC is about to dismantle net neutrality

Gamers who rely on equal access to the internet may no longer have any such guarantee

Back in 2015, under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established net neutrality rules to prevent service providers from blocking, throttling or favoring traffic from one source over another. Now, however, under the Trump administration FCC chairman Ajit Pai has announced plans to completely dismantle net neutrality and to allow "fast lanes" for companies willing to pay extra to get content to their customers faster.

The move effectively reverses the decision to classify broadband internet in the home in the same category as common carriers like telephone services. Moreover, the FCC order will force states to abandon any of their individual net neutrality rules, so it doesn't appear that states in the US would be able to circumvent the federal order, although the move is likely to spark legal battles between some states and the FCC.

Here is Pai's statement in full:

"For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.

"But in 2015, the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake. It's depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.

"Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.

"Additionally, as a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Notably, my proposal will put the federal government's most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers' online privacy.

"Speaking of transparency, when the prior FCC adopted President Obama's heavy-handed Internet regulations, it refused to let the American people see that plan until weeks after the FCC's vote. This time, it'll be different. Specifically, I will publicly release my proposal to restore Internet freedom tomorrow-more than three weeks before the Commission's December 14 vote.

"Working with my colleagues, I look forward to returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world."

When the original net neutrality rules were set, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) praised them, stating, "Great online video game experiences depend upon low latency, high bandwidth connections. We hope that the rule announced today by the FCC will promote continued development of fast online connections while protecting gamers from anti-competitive and discriminatory practices."

Telecommunications giants like Verizon have already come out in favor of the FCC move, whereas major streaming services like Netflix have opposed it. Google, too, has expressed disappointment: "The FCC's net neutrality rules are working well for consumers, and we're disappointed in the proposal released today.

We've reached out to the ESA again and will update this story once we've heard back. GamesIndustry.biz has also reached out to numerous online publishers and game companies about this critical issue for gamers and internet users in general. Stay tuned.

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Latest comments (5)

Dariusz G. Jagielski Game Developer 27 days ago
This is a great writeup by GIbiz staff. While I don't see with them eye-to-eye, despite being a game developer, such as on recent "loot box not bad design" article, this is a wonderful write up. The net neutrality needs to be protected.

It's true that this is only an issue because of US broadband duopoly and in some cases, even monopoly (if there was actual broadband competition, this would be sorted out pretty fast as it was in Poland when some ISPs in the early to mid 2000s had the bright idea to put usage caps on heir users - it took one competitor that didn't do this for them to change tune and usage caps hasn't been seen in Poland outside of mobile world ever since), but it's all U.S. people have to be protected against predatory practices of Comcast and its ilk.

For all interested readers who want to find out more, TechDirt is a great source, full of great write ups about net neutrality and more. I really recommend it. Not affiliated, just an avid reader.
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Evtim Trenkov Founder, Playright Games26 days ago
@Dariusz G. Jagielski: Well to be fair regulation usually equals artificial costs for businesses. Those put up barriers for new comers to the market. This results in less competition.
Regulations usually create unnecessary work places for bureaucrats which can be corrupted, as they are not responsible for the performance of markets, businesses and industries.
Removing this is a good move if they are hoping to stimulate competition. Perhaps sharing how the market shares have changed and by how much investment has decreased since 2015 in comparison to before that can help in them justifying this move. After all people are super biased lately.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios26 days ago
Hah. Look at this graph and explain to me how the telecoms industry's troubles are all due to one bit of Obama legislation two years ago.
Revenue is collapsing because everything they used to charge for - text, voice, TV, movies - is moving onto the internet, precisely because that channel offers newcomers like Netflix and Skype space to innovate. Repealing net neutrality just allows telecoms providers to split their pricing into premium and cheapass tiers so that they can charge more for the same old service. That may make the sector more attractive for telecoms firms, but it will also suffocate the sector of internet-based businesses.
If I was Google, I'd be looking at infrastructure in order to become that competition Dariusz describes...
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Richard Browne Partner & Head of Interactive, Many Rivers Productions26 days ago
Competition? In the US? BWAHH HAHAHAHA. The investment decrease is a total canard as well ; stop swallowing nonsense hook, line and sinker. Net neutrality is a must, plain and simple.

https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/the-truth-about-net-neutrality-and-infrastructure-investment
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Keldon Alleyne Developer, leader, writer, Avasopht Ltd24 days ago
Those put up barriers for new comers to the market
The barrier of entry to broadband is naturally high. Reasonable regulation will not change that.

It's absurd and highly illogical when that argument is made for industries with huge barriers of entry like broadband, fast food chains and aviation.

Other businesses like setting up a restaurant or a cafe have a natural barrier of entry in what it takes to pull it off successfully. If you've ever been involved in the running of such a business you will know that the adminstrative procedures required to meet regulations are overshadowed by the administrative procedures required to stay afloat anyway.

If you can't meet those simple regulatory needs you have zero chance in meeting customer needs. You simply lack pragmatism. The only businesses reasonable regulations prevent are ones that would have failed miserably anyway.

When you're talking about excessive or incorrect regulations, then we have something to be concerned about.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 24th November 2017 9:45am

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