April 29, 2014

Different Ways Net Neutrality Could Affect Cloud Gaming

By Joe Pellicone

Different Ways Net Neutrality Could Affect Gaming

Net neutrality has been a hot button of controversy between the government, industry professionals and end users for some time now. Net neutrality is defined as “the principle that internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site or platform.” Basically, net neutrality claims that no matter what content you are accessing over the internet, the costs and service should be the same.

The lion’s share of contention to date in regards to net neutrality has dealt mostly with video streaming services, such as Netflix. However, there is one burgeoning market that is being put in the cross hairs as well: cloud Gaming. cloud Gaming, including both services like streaming-giant Onlive and digital distribution platforms like Steam, all include using tons of bandwidth to make their services work. Net neutrality issues could easily have a severe impact on the efficacy of cloud gaming models in a number of different ways.

Bandwidth Caps

The primary concern of opponents to net neutrality is the fact that those who use streaming services or download a lot of files would have to pay no more than those who use smaller amounts of data. Some companies have contended that those using larger amounts of bandwidth, or are accessing known streaming sites, should have to pay more than those who only use it for standard activities, like surfing and social media.

One of the ways that companies have historically put gamers and streamers in check is caps on the amount of bandwidth that can be used each month. These caps would usually include a set amount of bandwidth usable each month, with any extra being shut out or subject to additional costs. Given that most AAA games are in excess of 30GB in size, this could cause quite a bit of trouble with online and cloud gamers.

Latency

Latency, also known popularly as lag, is one of the chief opponents to gaming online and in the cloud. While this annoyance is not only experienced when net neutrality issues arise, one action in specific could easily make it much worse: bandwidth throttling.

Bandwidth throttling is an action taken by the ISP (internet service provider) that slows down your internet speed once you have reached a certain limit, or are taking part in certain activities, such as cloud gaming. While recent legal actions over in Europe have made throttling illegal, American companies are subject to no such restrictions.

Goodbye, Net Neutrality

The FCC has ruled that net neutrality is dead. Instead, companies would now need to pay premiums if they want their content to be accessible without any caps or throttling. Not only does this open the door for these problems when using companies that do not opt to pay for the premiums, it could also lead to higher price tags on services that do.

It would be difficult to find a cloud gamer who would not agree that net neutrality was one of the most effective proposals to kill the possibility of bandwidth issues due to controlled bandwidth.

What are your thoughts on net neutrality? Let us know in the Comments section below!

By Joe Pellicone

Joe Pellicone

In 2011, Joe launched his writing career, dealing primarily with the tech topics he is so familiar with (Tech & Gaming). Today, Joe uses his experience and talent to create quality and enjoyable pieces on everything from gaming hardware and software, to individual games and gaming companies.
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