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FCC votes to dismantle net neutrality

ESA "disappointed" as US governing body votes 3-2 to abandon rule preventing service providers from blocking traffic

Net neutrality in the US is in danger. The Federal Communications Commission today voted 3-2 to overturn the 2015 rule prohibiting ISPs from blocking, throttling or prioritizing Internet traffic.

The topic has been a heated one in games for some time, as many games rely upon low latency, high bandwidth connections that ISPs may become more aggressive about monetizing. With net neutrality eliminated, ISPs would be free to charge the companies running these games a premium to ensure their traffic gets priority.

"The Federal Communications Commission today voted to restore the longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years," the FCC said in announcing the rollback. "Following detailed legal and economic analysis, as well as extensive examination of comments from consumers and stakeholders, the Commission reversed the FCC's 2015 heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem... The framework adopted by the Commission today will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules. And restoring a favorable climate for network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers."

The Entertainment Software Association objected to the ruling in a statement provided to GamesIndustry.biz, saying, "As an industry that has relied on internet protections to deliver exciting, innovative video games to fans around the world, ESA is disappointed that the FCC's order fails to prohibit blocking, throttling, and other anti-competitive conduct on the internet. Reasonable safeguards for broadband users and edge providers are needed to ensure that economic growth and technological advancement continue."

Net neutrality proponents aren't ready to abandon the fight yet. New York attorney general A.G. Schneiderman has already said he plans to lead a multistate lawsuit to prevent the rollback of net neutrality. Schneiderman had already begun an investigation into the FCC's public comment period on net neutrality, during which he found some 2 million comments posted using stolen identities. He along with more than a dozen other state attorneys general called upon the FCC to delay their vote in light of the findings.

"Today's new rule would enable ISPs to charge consumers more to access sites like Facebook and Twitter and give them the leverage to degrade high quality of video streaming until and unless somebody pays them more money," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Even worse, today's vote would enable ISPs to favor certain viewpoints over others."

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of the two dissenting commissioners, emphasized that point in her own statement about the vote.

"Particularly damning is what today's repeal will mean for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate, because traditional outlets do not consider their issues or concerns, worthy of any coverage," Clyburn said. "It was through social media that the world first heard about Ferguson, Missouri, because legacy news outlets did not consider it important until the hashtag started trending.

"It has been through online video services, that targeted entertainment has thrived, where stories are finally being told because those same programming were repeatedly rejected by mainstream distribution and media outlets. And it has been through secure messaging platforms, where activists have communicated and organized for justice without gatekeepers with differing opinions blocking them."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.