Global Policy

Global Policy

Policy bites: Net Neutrality

Network Neutrality

What is it?

Net Neutrality (NN) is the debate over whether the internet should operate pretty much as it does at the moment or whether ISPs should be able to block or charge differently based on the application that a user is using, or alternatively give preferential treatment to a company e.g. Media Company X’s content streams just that bit faster than everyone else’s.

Net Neutrality stems from fact that some users consume a lot more bandwidth than others and often this is for services that are damaging the business models of existing companies. For example someone using Skype no long has to pay for their local phone company for long distance calls. The debate tends also to be linked with illegal downloading hence peer to peer services can find themselves being blocked.

Why it matters?

Net Neutrality seems like one of those obscure policy issues that never has an impact in the real world. But already companies have been caught out by non-neutral ISP policies. The kinds off issues that Net Neutrality presents for any game company with an online component (even if it’s just downloading patches), include:

  • Online games can be inadvertently blocked
  • Games that use peer-to-peer (p2P) networks for downloading can be blocked as bi-product of trying to cut down on illegal downloads
  • Voice over IP (VoIP) services can be blocked, impacting the increasing number of games that have integrated in-game voice
  • Ping time, which is critical to some games, is generally not part of the discussion but could be impacted
  • To avoid these blocks companies may be charged by ISPs

For social media the potential direct impact on big providers is that ISP’s may come asking for more money for preferential treatment. This will be an additional cost of business for big providers and possibly a killer for small providers. What’s more users on different ISPs may start to see the internet very differently impacting the kind of sharing that fuels Social Networks.

See more from tVPN on Net Neutrality:

tVPN support IEEE and the VECoLab

tVPN support IEEE and the VECoLab

the Virtual Policy Network is supporting the creation of a body of practices and standards for virtual environments through the IEEE sponsored Virtual Environment CoLAB (VECoLab). The VECoLab is a group of individuals and organizations working to further the adoption of virtual environments. Its draft charter states:

Virtual Environments CoLab is hereby established to achieve standardization within and among virtual environments to enable vast technology/medium to intertwine their respective capabilities in a manner which exponentially increases potential and effectiveness of the virtual realm. As proponent, the VE CoLab (purpose and role) intends to act as advocate and mediator through the direct and significant involvement of the IEEE Standards Association, facilitator organizations and key professionals working within the communities of interest of internet technologies, production media and virtual environments, et al.

For more information see:

The Netherlands 2007: RuneScape extortion

In 2007 in The Netherlands a 13 year-old player of the online game RuneScape (Jagex Games Studio, UK) was kicked and threatened with a knife by a 14 year old and a 15 year old until he transferred virtual items to one of their accounts. In 2008 a Dutch court found the both defendants guilty of robbery under Article 310 of the Dutch Criminal Code, noting that the virtual items qualified as goods under Dutch law. The defendants were sentenced with 180 hours of community service and ‘youth detention’ for four weeks with a probationary period of two years.

External Links


China: Virtual (only) currency rule

On 29 June 2009 the Ministry of Commerce of The People’s Republic of China released a statement (see full text below) announcing that ‘China has unveiled the first official rule on the use of virtual currency in the trade of real goods and services to limit its possible impact on the real financial system.’

Rather than banning virtual currency, the regulation limited its application, the key being: ‘The virtual currency, which is converted into real money at a certain exchange rate, will only be allowed to trade in virtual goods and services provided by its issuer, not real goods and services. That is, virtual currency could be used in the context of a game but not as a substitute for hard currency.

Read more…

White Paper: Virtual Items and Public Policy

7 February 2011. Today the Virtual Policy Network has released a White Paper on Virtual Items and Public Policy. The Paper provides an overview of virtual items and virtual currency are – covering the spectrum from Xbox points to MMO characters. The paper defines what the key public policy interests are in virtual items, and provides a survey of the legal responses to issues involving virtual ‘goods’ from jurisdictions as diverse as China, Korea, Finland the US, citing a number of cases of virtual ‘theft’.

Released today as a .pdf under Creative Commons, the white paper will also be a living document held as part of the Virtual Policy Network’s database of resources. See the new Global Policy section of the site for details.

the Virtual Policy Network is looking for people to support this work, extend the number of countries covered and keep our database up to date with legislative changes impacting convergent media – if you would like to become an associate of tVPN or support our work in other ways please contact us at: info AT virtualpolicy DOT net.

Download Virtual Items and Public Policy (.pdf)