Net Neutrality – Could it Affect Esports?

The internet is a vast beast that we all know and love. It’s where we collectively gather by the billions to share content on social media networks, play games online, research and learn just about anything and where we absorb a lot of our media such as TV shows and independent content on YouTube and Twitch. For the large part we do this freely, and what i mean by this; we pay our ISP subscription and we do our best to avoid intrusive advertising. For example, we pay for facebook by allowing Facebook content creators to advertise to us.

What is Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is a hot topic right now but many people don’t fully understand exactly what it is. In short, Net Neutrality is still a relatively new principle that was only recently introduced in 2015 in order to keep internet service providers (or ISP’s) from shady practices such as restricting internet speed to any given content.

Who are the FCC?

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is a US Government independent agency that regulates online communication (and radio, telecoms etc). It is they who have repealed the Net Neutrality bill that was put in place by the Obama Administration to keep the internet “free”.

Will this affect people outside the US?

Yes… and No. So the repeal of Net Neutrality does not directly affect how the rest of the World governs communication providers, meaning the repeal itself does not affect those outside the US. Many websites are hosted globally, however global content delivery networks (or CDNs) provide users with content served in data centres from around the World ensuring your download speeds are as fast as possible. Europe for example is governed by the European Union so should individual countries wish to follow in the US’s footsteps they would have to go through the European Commission first.

Is Net Neutrality a Good or Bad Thing?

Ok so for sure this question sparks a fair amount of debate, but for those of you using the internet prior to 2015 which i’m certain almost all of you did, ask yourself this; Was the internet prior to 2015 an unregulated battleground of communication providers working day and night to restrict your speed to YouTube or screw you over? The answer to this is no, of course it wasn’t. Net Neutrality just prevented that from becoming a reality.

The Internet has functioned without net neutrality rules far longer than with them…

Michael O'Reilly, FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly, FCC Commissioner

One hypothetical scenario could mean we end up with faster content delivery services. By having communication providers put pressure on the aforementioned streaming services such as YouTube, this could lead to innovation such as more advanced compression, leading to a faster internet.

So what about the bad side? To be absolutely blunt here, the bad sides (like the good sides) are all hypothetical. The idea that content providers or consumers will have to pay rates to have access to content seems like pretty unlikely scenario, but… is not impossible.

One thing net neutrality does in theory is preserve the fact that government has no control over your personal data use. In reality if you use the internet and social networks like Facebook then you’ve lost this battle and should probably get over it. Just do some light reading on how personal data was used by president elect; Donald Trump during his presidential campaign.

Could the repeal affect Esports

The million dollar question. If content providers start having to pay rates then yes, we could see services such as Twitch and YouTube suffer but again this is hypothetical and as previously mentioned would encourage further innovation to deliver faster content. There are in fact many ways that the repeal could affect esports, but these are both positive and negative outcomes.

The possibility that internet could get cheaper for the many but remain expensive for the few, us. We gaming enthusiasts and esports fans typically use way over the average data than your every day user. We watch less TV and consume more media online through the likes of streaming and editorial than many others. Therefore we could expect to keep paying relatively expensive internet subscriptions and potentially slightly more expensive. But ask yourself, does that really bother you? We all complain about our Netflix and Twitch buffering, our bad pings on Swedish servers on FACEIT (unless of course you are in fact in Sweden).

One good analogy is looking at your mobile phone subscriptions. Calling your friends and family is more than usually covered by your package and could be likened to gathering your latest updates on scene affairs from reddit, or here could be like calling your friends. Calling service providers sometimes isn’t and you can easily find yourself with a hefty bill at the end of any given month. Downloading big game updates from Steam, streaming live events on Twitch and keeping up to date with industry analysis on YouTube could be like calling those service providers. This analogy could easily be considered bad for the Esports Industry and is something I personally hope will never happen.

It’s certainly a gloomy cloud over the future of Esports in the US at least, but it’s a sad day for the internet as a whole. Notable figures in the community have voiced their opinions on social network Twitter and responses reflect a shared opinion.

Is the Repeal Permanent?

Absolutely not. There is hope for Net Neutrality or a successor to take it’s place and this could be a very real outcome.

Wrapping it up

Right now, we don’t know if the Net Neutrality repeal is good, or bad. What we do know is that we don’t pay more to use sites like YouTube. Time will give us the real answer to this question, but for now gamers worldwide can sleep easy at night in the comfort that for the foreseeable future at least; the repeal of Net Neutrality won’t change much for most of us.

For better insight into what happens next checkout this article over at TechCrunch.