20 November 2006

No Net Neutrality, No Virtual Worlds

Here's a thoughtful analysis of another harmful knock-on effect of the loss of network neutrality:

What will be murdered with no fallback or replacement is the nascent market of interactive entertainment – particularly online gaming. Companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Sony Online Entertainment, and countless others, have built a business on the fundamental assumption of relatively low latency bandwidth being available to large numbers of consumers. Furthermore, a large — even overwhelming — portion of the value of these offerings comes from their “network effects” — the tendency for the game to become more enjoyable and valuable as larger number of players joins the gaming network.

And that means things like Second Life and all the other virtual worlds that are currently under developmentwill also be hit. So, net neutrality is concretely about the future of the Internet, not just abstractly about the importance of preserving an online commons. (Via Terra Nova.)


Anonymous said...

Yup, this is a big issue that is being largely ignored - especially with recent published statistics in businessweek indicating 55% of SL users are outside of the United States. I'm waiting for verification on those numbers.

Oh, and thanks for the link on the cluster. Adding you to my feeds. :-) Good stuff here!

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks - we aim to please.

Anonymous said...

Glyn, You would think the gaming community would be opposed to net neutrality regulations because they wouldn't ensure a seamless experience for the player and prevent newer and faster gaming applications from coming to fruition. Net neutrality means more government bureaucracy that gamers will have to contend with.

Just a thought from Hands Off the Internet Coalition. ~ HandsOff43

Glyn Moody said...

I don't quite understand why you say that net neutrality regulations won't ensure a seamless experience. Net neutrality at a technical level says you don't care what your IP packets are carrying - you don't discriminate. If there's no discrimination, the experience, by definition, will be seamless.

It allows you to pay more if you want a faster connection, but doesn't impose any conditions on what you can do with that connection.

Newer and faster games will only come to fruition if there is a level playing field, with no discrimination against new users. This actually requires net neutrality, otherwise incumbents might be able to shut out new companies by paying for their service to be given preference by Net providers, whether or not their service is any better - a classic abuse of power.

And gamers won't have to deal with government bureaucracy: net neutrality is transparent to them. Net neutrality acts on the companies supplying Net connections, and they are certainly very practised at dealing with governments.

Anonymous said...

But the thing is all data should not be considered the same. Emails are different than streaming video online or playing online games. Net neutrality will force all data to act like its the same thereby increasing the chances of clogs, no matter what type of service the consumer is paying.

I refer you to tech expert George Ou...
"What if we told FedEx or any other shipping company they can’t charge for priority overnight shipping and that if they want to offer priority service, then they can’t discriminate against the sender and all packages must be sent via priority shipping? What do you think would happen to priority overnight delivery service? The exact same thing that happens in any socialist system like the Soviet Union where lines were a mile long and service was lousy."

Gamers would probably be willing to pay the extra price for guaranteeing the quality of service but I know I wouldn't want to pay if I'm not playing the games. Net neutrality will force everyone to pay regardless of the applications used. Why? Because all data must be treated equally.

Glyn Moody said...

Well, this is where we differ. I do believe that emails are the same as VOIP because to discriminate threatens the development of future protocols and future services.

Imagine if there were no net neutrality when the Web was born. Imagine if all the big Gopher operators paid premium rates for fast delivery. Along comes Tim B-L with the strange new Web thing: note that he is a poor researcher and can't pay for fast delivery. Who's going to use this slow old thing? It will never catch on - because the incumbents can make the barrier to entry high.

Who knows what new ideas may be coming through today? Some of them, almost certainly, will come from people with little money, like Tim: if there's no net neutrality, they don't stand a chance.

And yes, net neutrality does mean that everyone pays for this equality - but everyone gains, too, in terms of new services. This is like all commons; in fact, you can see this happening now, in a different sphere, as countries choose to consume and pollute rather than preserve the environmental commons. Would they pay higher prices if they were ecologically more sensible? Of course - but they would have a future, which they won't have if they carry on as at present.

It's the same with the Net: if we don't preserve the commons of Net neutrality, the prospects for the future are diminished.

The big difference between this "socialist" approach - and hey, call me a socialist, my skin is thick - and the Soviet analogy is that Net speeds keep on rising while costs keep falling. It is as if the Soviet system just kept on getting more and more efficient, so all those lines got shorter, or as if FedEx became more efficient so that everybody could have priority overnight at ever-cheaper prices.