If peer-to-peer traffic is slowed down/given a lower priority, then that already affects the way some of our games perform their updates. Some companies use peer-to-peer transfers over direct downloads, as you can get higher speeds by downloading from multiple sources instead of one source. Would you like it if your Blizzard Downloader moved at the speed of molasses because your ISP thinks it hogs resources?
Furthermore, providers may choose to switch over to a business model like TV stations, where you pay extra to access different "tiers" of content. Think of having a "basic" Internet package that lets you browse mainstay sites like Comcast.net, NBC.com, government websites, and other basic resources. But if you want Google and Wikipedia? Well, that will cost you extra. YouTube and Hulu may come in a "premium entertainment" package. And Skype? Well, let's throttle down all Skype connections so the quality sucks, and then talk about how our new Internet/TV/phone package has better quality than Skype.
And what if online gaming was included in one of these tier packages? You have to purchase a special "gaming add-on" to be able to connect to World of Warcraft or Battlefield: Bad Company 2 or Xbox Live.
That's where net neutrality concerns us, and I think we'd all agree that we'd like to keep the Internet the way it is.
"Would you like it if your Blizzard Downloader moved at the speed of molasses because your ISP thinks it hogs resources?"
But it's not all sunshine and roses in the net neutrality camp
Even if the FCC gets the ability to regulate the Internet and keep out the concept of "traffic priority," we're still dealing with a congested Internet. Having responsible priority does have its perks, like making sure that one guy doesn't suck up all of the bandwidth.
Plus, don't forget, bandwidth means spending money and resources. If the Internet providers aren't pulling our legs and their networks really are too congested, then they may move to capping Internet usage should net neutrality prevail. So, instead of unlimited Internet, we'll have 20 gigs a month for a "premium rate." If you want more, then you need to spend more.
The good news there is online gaming doesn't really hog bandwidth -- it's mostly the client downloads and updates that kill you. But, still, I know I'd rather not have my Internet capped. I like having my unlimited usage. (Or, as it is with Comcast, 250 gb of usage, which I know I don't come close to using, and I have 2 roommates on the same connection.)
So what's the bottom line?
Let me give it to you straight -- we're between a rock and a hard place. If net neutrality falls, then providers may control our traffic, slow down our connection speed to our favorite games and services, or even unleash "subscription plans" that work like cable television. If net neutrality stands strong, we're looking at having our Internet usage capped and a move away from "unlimited" access models.
What it doesn't mean is having government oversight, or having big brother control your downloads. The FCC is trying to make sure that private interests don't control how information flows. They want our Internet to stay as it is today: open for every connection and every user.
So do me a favor and help spread the word on keeping net neutrality intact. Sure, it may screw up our Internet a little bit, but I'd rather have a clogged Internet than pay for "premium access to YouTube."
Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who is in favor of net neutrality, because Comcast will still find ways to get money from her wallet, no matter what. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog,The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at seraphina AT massively DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.