As the dust settles into a new year, what could have been seen as the greatest trending topic to end 2017 has left almost no trace of itself on our Twitters and Facebook. The repeal of Net Neutrality left some great memes, whether it was plastering Ajit Pai’s face all over the net in humorous and lewd ways or hashtagging every post with the buffering symbol… Was it all fruitless?

Net Neutrality

So, What is Net Neutrality?

Essentially, Net Neutrality means an open and free Internet. This forces broadband carriers to treat all data and customers equally. We pay for certain speeds, and we’re guaranteed those speeds, all with free access to whatever content we so choose. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have been hard at work since the 1990s to revise and even remove Net Neutrality.

Just a few years ago we had the “Internet slowdown,” where consumers and major websites protested an upcoming revision regarding tiered service packages. This would have created efficiently fast and slow broadband lanes, which would also develop discriminatory prices for consumers.

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This managed to thwart the FCC for the time-being, but with greedy interests still holding the seats, it would only be a matter of time. With the repeal last month, broadband providers are no longer common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Fran Berkman and Andrew Couts can explain it in more detail.

internet slowdown

This means less regulation, except for the Internet Service Providers (ISP) who are now able to throttle connections and give preferential treatment for individual companies. Verizon, Comcast, and Spectrum are the most prominent examples of these. No matter what part of America you are from, you’re more than likely paying for your internet from one of them or one their smaller branches.

So, What About Us Gamers?

Well, let’s first consider the services we already use. Streaming services like Twitch (along with Netflix and Hulu alike) require a lot of bandwidth. Playing with others online involves a lot of bandwidth. Continually uploading and downloading content takes up a lot of bandwidth (all bad news for your favorite or up-and-coming content creators). If you’re just using the internet to read tweets, don’t expect any significant changes.

A lot of gamers already shell out the extra cash for the fastest internet they can afford. Playing on Steam, PSN, or Xbox Live, most games require you to be connected to the Internet. The broadband companies would now be able to twist the arm of any corporation that needs higher speeds. Basic economics dictates, as resources become scarce, prices rise. If pay-to-win was ever a peeve of yours, well it can be exclusive to all gamers in the future.

Net Neutrality

That monthly Xbox Live subscription might go up a few dollars so that Microsoft doesn’t lose too much from using their non-regulated broadband. Streaming services like Twitch are free now, but those monthly subscriptions are going to go up. You may even have to pay in order to stream yourself, which makes it tougher for anyone trying to make a living from it.

So, What About The Smaller Gaming Companies?

Large companies like Microsoft and Electronic Arts will have the bank to provide its consumers with exclusive servers with guaranteed speeds, but what about the lowly indie developer/studio? It’s already a struggle getting a game like PUBG or Warframe off the ground. Imagine the extra effort it takes when you can’t provide lobbyists of your own to influence the bigwig broadband providers.

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This is the big fear for me and many others. Stuck between two or three different internet service providers? Do you even have options when it comes to the company you’ll be paying for your internet? Well, imagine an oligarchy of large game development companies to match the current oligarchy of broadband companies.

Hoping to develop a game on your own or start your own gaming company? Reduced speeds, limited servers available, and blocked marketing content are in your future. Before larger companies would just buy out their competition, a la EA with Bioware, but there won’t be competition anymore if these smaller companies can’t even make it off the ground.

Without Net Neutrality

So what’s the difference? In the wake of it all, can we really expect to have to pay to read Twitter posts? Doubtful. All of us, in some form or another, pay for our Internet through one of these companies. It will be the major bandwidth users that will hurt. Streaming your favorite shows on Netflix is going to cost you more, just like it will cost Netflix more to keep their bandwidth.

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With preferential treatment, there’s also the possibility of individual content being blocked altogether. Comcast doesn’t like what Wikileaks has to say about the FCC? They will be more than welcome to limit the amount of content a website can dish out. Maybe even prevent your area from having access to these particular sites.

Imagine having to use the Dark Web to use Reddit or 4chan…

So, What Can We Do?

The FCC voted 3-2, Net Neutrality was repealed, and the internet went into chaos. The first thing many did, as when anyone doesn’t get their way, is point the finger for someone to blame. Many would like to point this finger at the Republicans for this. The three votes were from the respective party. There are a few in Congress that openly dislike the idea of rolling back Net Neutrality, however.

With this knowledge, what can we hope to achieve? Guaranteed, you won’t see this trending until late October when it will be up to the young voters to counter the FCC through Congressional representation. Too often we catch ourselves only giving our time to politics when it’s convenient for us. Do you even know who represents your state when it comes to your own interests?

We need to take a more active role in choosing those who represent us and communicating our interests. A few tweets here and there isn’t the same as signing a petition or calling your state’s senator. Free internet is essential. Whether it’s for free speech, content creation, or being a nerd. It should never be capped or regulated

Come this November 2018, I best see all of you readers at the polls. Now, more than ever, people are beginning to realize showing up on election day once every four years doesn’t cut it. If there’s any reason to take a break from your social media, it’s to vote.

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