Apparently the Court of Appeals in DC has stated the FCC does not have the authority to enforce net neutrality amongst broadband service providers (source). While this debate has been going on for years, with the more liberal ideas plentiful across the net, has any one considered the potential effect this may have on gaming?
First, what is net neutrality?
In a nutshell, it's the concept that internet service providers should not tamper with internet traffic. The tampering is presumed to be in the form of tiered pricing, and exclusivity to a provider's own traffic over a competitors. This would mean that Cox may slow down any Qwest packets (of information) going through their part of the net in favor of keeping the Cox packets at high-speed.
Alright, but how can this effect gaming?
Perhaps this jumping the gun a little bit on this new ruling, but can't DLC (downloadable content) and online-gaming quality be at risk? DLC files available on Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and Wii Shop range from small files to larger files. Xbox Live and Playstation Network have a bigger selection of larger files considering the HD-content they are providing their users. If a major internet provider were to side with one of these services, it could limit the quality of the other. Meaning, Comcast could create a deal with Microsoft, enhancing the transfer times of the mentioned files, while limiting their relationship with Sony–thus sacrificing the stream of transfers on PSN.
Perhaps even massive-multiplayer online games could see a pinch in quality. As graphics improve, the content file size increase. Bandwidth needed to transfer content from hosts to users undoubtedly rises as well. With the increase of bandwidth and how deregulated, profit-seeking service providers view that increase can be a bad thing. Perhaps there may be additional fees to play MMO titles in the near future. You could buy a new MMO title, pay a monthly subscription to keep the developer hosting, and dish out an additional bandwidth charge to your ISP to be apart of their "gamer tier." Otherwise, you'll be a victim of network lag.