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Net Neutrality - What a Closed Internet Means - Extra Credits

(Theme song)

Today we're going to talk about Net Neutrality.

It's a concept that affects the game industry deeply

and yet it's often reduced to a vague term

thrown around by people to defend or attack

a dozen different concepts.

So what does Net Neutrality mean?

In the broadest sense, it simply means

internet service providers can't discriminate

in how they allocate bandwidth to sites.

For example, right now,

how fast you can access content is limited

by the location and capacity

of the content provider's servers,

because we functionally exist

in a net-neutral environment.

But if you took away Net Neutrality,

internet service providers could slow

your service to a crawl for sites like

Youtube

or Netflix

Sites that require vast amounts of streaming data

and so, in effect, cost the ISP more.

Now, this if often raised as a civil liberties concern,

It's often brought up that in a world

where we do away with Net Neutrality

it would be very easy to restrict access to content

that the government or major corporations

don't want you to have access to.

And while I will fight every day to retain what liberties

we still have,

I'm actually not sure that's where

the real threat comes here.

I think it comes in a much more banal insipid form:

simple greed.

In a non-net neutral environment,

it makes no sense for internet service providers

not to basically charge a toll for access to content.

You want to watch Youtube videos

at a better speed than a 56k modem?

Well that's going to be five extra dollars a month

for the special Youtube package.

You want to play World of Warcraft?

Well, now in addition to paying 15 dollars to Blizzard,

you also better pay an extra 10 bucks a month

to Comcast to not restrict your bandwidth.

And what about competition?

I mean, NBC is owned by Comcast.

NBC competes with services like Netflix

and Amazon Instant Video.

Why wouldn't they make access to those sites

laggy and cumbersome while giving

full blazing bandwidth to their own products?

Or, in terms of games, vivendi still owns

millions of dollars worth of Activision Blizzard stock,

and various ISPs around the world.

Why wouldn't they make World of Warcraft easy to play,

and Guild Wars slow and laggy?

But why talk about this now?

Well, until recently, Net Neutrality in the United States

was guarded by the FCC

But in January, a circuit court ruled

that this was not part of the

Federal Communications Commission's jurisdiction

and, since we have no laws in place

addressing Net Neutrality, this sort of opened

the flood gates on the issue.

For a while, there was some question as to exactly

what effect this ruling would have,

but, in the last few months, we've already seen

companies like AT&T file patents

for bandwidth discrimination technology.

For a gaming world which is ever more dependent on

high-speed access and unrestricted bandwidth usage,

this sort of thing means higher cost for less service.

If you'd like to keep getting a megabyte or more

a second while downloading a steam game,

you can bet that's gonna be a premium.

More still, what's to keep companies from making deals

with the ISP directly?

What if Valve pays your ISP to limit your access

to Good Old Games?

Sound ridiculous? Maybe so in that case,

but Sony or Microsoft paying your ISP

to restrict access to the other's network?

EA paying to slow down everyone's access to Steam

in order to make Origin more appealing?

Alright, you get the idea.

The internet as we know it was

built around the idea that

content would live or die

based around the competition between services offered,

which led to the rough and tumble

rapidly evolving Web we know today.

But imagine if MySpace could've paid

to limit access to Facebook,

or Encyclopedia Britannica could've put in money

to slow Wikipedia use to a crawl.

While many opponents of Net Neutrality say that it goes against

the free markets to mandate a net-neutral environment,

truth be told, as far as I can tell,

a non-net neutral Web is one that stifles competition,

and encourages stagnation.

It entrenches existing corporations,

rather than forcing them to actually compete

on the value of their services.

Now, we at Extra Credits usually try to understand

the argument from both sides of an issue,

but, no matter how much digging

we've done on this one

we can't really find a compelling argument

for eliminating Net Neutrality.

The vast majority of the proponents of this idea

seem to be ISPs or people working

fairly directly with them.

The best counter argument to a net-neutral environment

that I've heard is the suggestion

that the free market compensates

for a non-net neutral environment,

by allowing you to change ISPs

if the one you're with right now limits your

access in ways you don't like.

And a non-net neutral environment

will provide ISPs savings that they can then use

to provide you with better service

for the content you do want.

But, I don't know how it is where you live,

but I don't have a lot of options as far as ISPs go

if I want high speed service where I live.

Shopping around for the best service

isn't really possible.

The only really strong argument I've heard

against legislating Net Neutrality

is that making Net Neutrality law

might be too restrictive.

There actually is stuff that the ISPs

already filter access to

that's probably beneficial to all of us:

Spam bots, potential threats, et cetera,

and the argument goes, that any law you put in place

wouldn't be flexible enough to adjust to the

ever changing environment of the Internet.

This is why allowing the FCC to maintain a policy

of Net Neutrality while reviewing things

on a case by case basis

seems like an eminently workable system to me,

but if we can't have that, there are countries

who have mandated forms of Net Neutrality,

such as Chile, Japan, and the Netherlands,

without stopping ISPs from doing some

beneficial filtering.

So if legislators would work with

experts in the area, I'm sure we could find a solution.

But, whatever side of this you fall on,

it's being decided now.

Right now, here in America.

This is something that

will affect how we use the Internet,

and how we game for decades to come.

How we act here, what we say and where we stand

will determine whether future generations

get to experience the net-neutral Web

we've grown up with.

We are very much pro-Net Neutrality on E.C.,

but we believe in democracy even more,

so whatever your beliefs on how the Internet

should evolve, we encourage you

to contact your representative about it.

We've put a link down below

that will easily allow you to find out who represents you

in the House and the Senate if you live in the U.S.

so you can reach out to them.

I'll see you next week.

(Outro Music)