There are a lot of pieces online this week about how net neutrality’s supposed end (more on that in a minute) means that your online multiplayer and MMOs are about to go bye-bye. And that is, in theory, a problem. Unfortunately, it misses the far more pressing one that, unlike a theoretical slowdown from your ISP, might actually cause some serious issues with online gaming.
What Nobody’s Telling You About The Net Neutrality Ruling
Most pieces about the ruling striking down the FCC’s net neutrality rules miss two very important nuances.
1) The FCC can come back and propose new net neutrality rules, something it’s likely already in the process of doing. It just can’t propose rules quite as strict as the ones it had in place. Essentially, net neutrality isn’t dead; it’s just being defined legally. It has gone from a rock solid concept to an amorphous one, but it isn’t dead.
2) More importantly, the court has agreed with the assertion that the Federal Communications Commission can regulate the Internet. And that is the much more real and serious problem.
The FCC In Charge Of The Internet Is Bad News
This is not to knock the good and useful work for the Federal Communications Commission, but let’s not forget who these people are. They’re the ones who fined Howard Stern because he was being “indecent.” They’re the ones who spent eight years trying to fine CBS half a million dollars for showing America the Dreaded Nipple of Janet Jackson. The FCC is easily manipulated by people with an agenda. And now these people are in charge of the Internet.
It’s unlikely the FCC is going to start passing moral regulations right away. On the other hand, sit your mom down and show her, oh, something like this:
Note her reaction. Now imagine if your mom had the power to actually implement that reaction. That is now the FCC.
What Does This Mean For Gaming?
Essentially, this opens a new frontier for old people who think video games are the devil to try and take your games away. It won’t be a source of outright censorship: The Supreme Court has taken that off the table for good.
On the other hand, the FCC is perfectly capable of, say, deciding that kids shouldn’t see Call of Duty. Which they’re 100% right on, but who do you think the FCC is going to punish: The idiot parent who bought their child the game, or the network that has no way of figuring out if there’s a kid on their servers? Imagine a game being blacked out because some brat snuck on, or online multiplayer only being available during prime time. Both of those are now possibilities.
Admittedly, this is a worst-case scenario; the FCC’s reaction and behavior are more likely to be muted. But this ruling is going to affect your online gaming for the worse, one way or the other.