Every Time You Vote against Net Neutrality, Your ISP Kills a Night Elf

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Why online gaming will be the biggest casualty if ISPs prioritize packets


The debate over net neutrality has often focused on video as the dominant medium that made the prioritization of packets either crucial or harmful. However, video is not the offering that will suffer the most if net neutrality becomes a wistful memory. Rather, the users that are likely to be most materially disadvantaged are those that utilize the Net for interactive communications – particularly voice over IP (VOIP) and online gaming. Of these two finalists for the dubious title of “innovation most likely to be stifled to the detriment of everyone by loss of net neutrality,” gaming is by far the more irreplaceable and senseless loss.

Unlike video and voice, ISPs are unlikely to have or be able to obtain a viable material stake in the gaming business and have no replacement for the service. As a result, consumers stand not only to lose their choice of the source of this product, but the very value of the gaming service itself.

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10 thoughts on “Every Time You Vote against Net Neutrality, Your ISP Kills a Night Elf

  1. Richard Koffler says:

    History shows that nothing good ever comes from government interference with free markets.

    Net neutrality is about private property rights, and the claim that the government should mandate the price for the public use of assets owned by one group for the benefit of others — in this case, publishers of online games.

    Let’s take this down a different path. In ramprate’s rant, publishers of online games argue that they need immense and delicate levels of network performance and uptime. Yet everyone knows that the last mile affected by the debate about net neutrality is the least reliable of the network — a link that is famous for its slow-downs and outages. Other links in the network already enjoy multi-tier pricing schemes based on factors like speed and reliability.

    I argue that letting the free market decide the price for the last mile will yield better solutions for publishers of online games and their clients. We might see different pricing schemes than we see today, but this isn’t bad, is it?

    Analogously, should we ask the government to mandate that ramprate offer Google the same prices that ramprate charges me, a tiny publisher of websites?

    Lastly, there is a huge irony in this debate:

    The reason why we have the debate in the fist place is because the markets for telecommunications have been grossly distorted by the arbitrary edicts from bureaucrats — mostly command-and-control lawyers appointed by vote-pandering politicians — at the FCC, state utilities commissions and municipalities.

    The defenders of net neutrality are now asking these very same market-meddlers who broke the system with their idiotic regulations to “fix” the problem with yet more arbitrary, market-distortive regulations. Instead, I hope that smart people like Tony Greenberg will instead scream for the dismantlement of the regulatory agencies that created and perpetuate the problems caused by insufficient competition.

  2. atewari says:

    Ramprate is excited to read the response!

  3. Chris Loosley says:

    Of all the arguments that could be made in favor of net neutrality, Ramprate’s must surely have the least merit — socially, or logically.

    I wonder how many socially conscious legislators will swayed by this impassioned plea to save imaginary Elves from extinction, and prevent “irreparable harm … to gaming communities”?

    Unfortunately, Ramprate’s rant is sadly typical of the Net Neutrality “debate,” in which most of the arguments advanced on both sides do not actually state the true interests of those making them. In this case, Ramprate is a company whose business “saves clients millions in misdirected IT services expenditures,” not an advocacy group for the online gaming community. So I can only assume that Ramprate must have some financial motivation for promoting the interests of online gaming companies.
    That would be a far more credible basis for their position than their specious argument for protecting online gaming from the fate of the Usenet community — which faded away because its members found newer and better ways to communicate. In fact, the 2005 article they quote (“AOL Pulls Plug on Newsgroup Service”) points out that “the Usenet dates back to around 1980. Now that blogs and instant messaging have supplanted older Internet technologies such as newsgroups and IRC, it’s unlikely that AOL users will create much of an uproar over the decision”.

    Maybe Tony Greenberg also misses his 1980 Atari with its great video games, but most of us have upgraded a few times since then. Atari didn’t survive, but a few other companies have found ways to make a pretty good business out of selling home computers, and software to go with them. If the online gaming companies achieve only a fraction of that success over the next 25 years, they’ll be doing just fine. And I don’t think the rest of us should lose any sleep worrying whether they need some special “affirmative action” rules to help ensure their survival.

  4. Memento Diem says:

    “Every Time You Vote against Net Neutrality, Your ISP Kills a Night Elf”

    Einen neuen Kurs bei dem sehr sensiblem Thema Net Neutrality geht Ramp^Rate an, die ein Plädoyer für Online-Spiele(-Communitys) veröffentlicht haben. Deren Ansicht nach ist es nicht nur die wichtigste Branche, die durch eine Verände…

  5. Alex Veytsel says:

    In response to Richard Koffler, I’d like to note two things:
    1) The argument for net neutrality as a regulatory activity hinges on two things: (1) Internet as a public good with much R&D work done by the government and (2) local monopolies granted to consumer ISPs. I’d say the latter is the stronger argument and one recognized by Richard, so let’s focus on that. I would personally agree that removing regulation at the municipal level and assuring me the choice of any ISP that prioritizes or does not prioritize traffic is an even better idea than net neutrality legislation. However, creation of CLEC-like ISPs on my local cable network is not an idea that is up for market or legislative debate right now, while net neutrality is very much a movement that deserves an up or down vote within the context of other laws and market conditions that currently exist. And in that environment, it’s better to regulate some firms we (foolishly) gave a local monopoly to than to let them do something that would harm the consumer irreparably.

    2) Nowhere in the piece do we directly say that regulation will be necessary for net neutrality. I’d like to think it is as much an appeal to the enlightened self-interest of the ISP (saying that a neutral pipe optimized for gaming is much more profitable) as it is an appeal to legislators. And while I think there is a argument to be made for regulation based on the logic above, I can certainly accept your point that if it is possible to set up a similar effect by using competitive forces, the outcome will be much more fruitful for the long haul.

    Thank you for the insightful commentary, however — I think this definitely takes the debate in the right direction.

  6. Pixelbox says:

    I agree with Richard. Fixing red tape with more red tape is not the way to go about this.

  7. S P Jones says:

    I’m a gamer and I want a high priority, low latency service.

    Right now, it’s not the telcos who are hurting us, it’s the dumb guy running Bittorrent on your cable pipe. The report is correct in saying latency and jitter murder VoIP. That’s true – they murder gaming too. The report is technically inaccurate in asserting that more bandwidth solves the problem. This is not true. Bittorrent sucks up every mbit of bandwidth available: give it a T1 and you’ll still have latency and jitter.

    Badly-written “Net Neutrality” will kill the net.

  8. M Miller says:

    I am a gamer myself and personally I have two stances on this.

    1) My ISP decides that the packets I am sending and receiving are low priority and do not merit a low latency and thus increases my ping or cuts me off completely. My response is to immediately cancel my service and go with an ISP that does have my interests as their customer in mind.

    2) My ISP or another ISP decides to offer a service that will provide me with high priority, very low latency packet transmission. My response: I switch to the better provider.

    Either way, companies realize that there is competition for the product and if they take away a service that the customer wants, they will lose that customer to the competing company that provides it. If an ISP wants to go about things smarter, I would say the best way would be that rathen than taking away from your current customers, add features on another plan or make a new plan that incorporates better features which will entice the competition’s customers away and encourage your existing users to upgrade.

  9. Jacomo says:

    As a Service Provider and ISP as well as a gamer (at home of course) I will offer the following for consideration:

    Competition in the Last Mile Broadband (over 2Mbps) market will drive this discussion:
    We have the local:
    Cable Company,
    The Incumbent (ILEC/RBOC)
    The CLEC and or WISP
    We also have the emerging Muni based Wireless Mesh Provider.

    All of the above have a vested interest in this market and will compete aggressively for these Gamers who are willing to pay for an enhanced Last Mile Connnection.

    It is not the Last Mile that is the problem with Latency/Jitter. It is the Internet itself and the centralized MultipLayer Gaming (Hosted) sites that are trying to dominate this class of user. Try using a real FPS over these networks much less a VoiceIP link between gamers.
    What needs to be done here is for the entire community of gamers, developers/publishers/distributors etc to address the real solution and that is:
    Local Placement of Gaming Platforms (Server) tied by big pipes to all the major Hosted Sites.
    This will allow players Low Latency/Jitter links to Local Based Servers for Intra-Network playing between subscribers (Service Providers customers) as well as an optional link (and pay) when required to allow for these players to link to major National Hosted Game Sites. This will allow the local Service Provider to offer special premium links to their subscribers for local gaming as well as option to link to National Hosted Servers via a dedicated High Speed Internet connection.
    The major Hosted Service providers overhead to allow the local placement of their Server platform is minimal since the local Provider would provide and maintain the server platforms and the major hosted provider would only need offer a Tech Support hotline and access (for a fee) to the Gaming Server Software.
    Until this is done you will have these local providers manipulating the last mile to their benefit, since they have to pay for the bandwidth/links etc.

    aka Bruto (WOW)

  10. Florian says:

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