I got a new computer recently and didn’t think twice about downloading some of my favorite games from my Steam library immediately. That’s 2GBs here and 10GBs there … oh, Max Payne 3? That’s another 35GBs. Well, if I had Verizon’s Internet service, that kind of behavior may one day rack up quite a bill.
Verizon chief executive Lowell McAdam thinks that heavy data users should pay more for broadband access, according to IDG News Service. Yes, this means the people constantly streaming high-definition video from Netflix and downloading massive game files from Steam, Xbox Games Store, or other services.
“It’s only natural that the heavy users help contribute to the investment to keep the Web healthy,” McAdam said during a conference call discussing net neutrality. “That is the most important concept of net neutrality.”
Verizon isn’t just looking to squeeze more money out of consumers. It wants to ink a deal with Netflix similar to the one the video company recently agreed to with Comcast. Currently, Netflix traffic runs over the same servers and databases as the majority of the web, but the company agreed to pay Comcast an undisclosed amount to provide it a more direct route to consumer’s homes. This will speed up the delivery of data and improve the video quality.
“[The Netflix and Comcast deal shows] the commercial markets can come to agreement on these [issues] to make sure the investments keep flowing,” McAdam said.
At the same time, the Verizon CEO refuted the claim that his company is purposefully slowing down Netflix or anyone else.
“We make our money by carrying traffic,” he said. “That’s how we make dollars. So [the idea] that we’re going to be advantaging one over the other really is a lot of histrionics, I think, at this point.”
Verizon owns Redbox Instant, which is a Netflix competitor and an extension of those large, red physical-DVD kiosks that sit outside of grocery stores.
While slowing down data for Netflix in favor of giving a benefit to Redbox Instant would clearly fall under net neutrality — which fell apart after a D.C. appeals court ruled the FCC didn’t have jurisdiction over the Internet — charging heavy users more for access isn’t exactly the same thing.
Verizon and other ISPs might argue that bandwidth is a utility like water and gas. The more you use, the less is available for everyone else. You pay your gas company depending on how much you use, but typically not your ISP for access.
Currently, some Internet providers have hard caps on the amount of data individuals homes can download in a month. The net neutrality rules did not prevent that even when they were in place. Charging more for the most data-heavy gamers is just another step in that direction.
So government regulation is likely not what will stop Verizon from charging gamers and Netflix customers more. Instead, Google Fiber and other competitors offering faster speeds, no caps, and flat rates for unlimited data may steal away customers.
That pesky free market strikes again.