U.S. telecom giant AT&T says that gaming is not a “core broadband service,” describing it, along with streaming video and real-time voice, as “aspirational” services instead.
AT&T made the comment in response to a call from the FCC for input from the public on defining the term “broadband,” part of its effort to draft a “national broadband plan” that will be submitted to Congress in February to help determine how to expand the accessibility and performance of high-speed internet service across the U.S. MSNBC says broadband internet in the U.S. lags behind many European and Asian nations; a 2008 study by the OECD ranked the U.S. 19th in the world with an “advertised [broadband] rate” of 9.6 mbps, compared to the top three nations of Japan (92.8 mbps), Korea (80.8 mbps) and France (51 mbps).
But while the U.S. government and telecommunications industry may be looking at ways to improve the experience, don’t expect gaming to be at the forefront of that effort. In its submission to the FCC, AT&T wrote, “There are a host of aspirational broadband services that are beginning to emerge in this country, as well as myriad sophisticated applications involving streaming video, real-time voice, and the like.”
“But for Americans who today have no terrestrial broadband service at all, the pressing concern is not the ability to engage in real-time, two-way gaming, but obtaining meaningful access to the internet’s resources and to reliable email communications and other basic tools that most of the country has come to expect as a given. Fulfilling that need is the appropriate national priority at this time.”
Predictably, those comments raised the ire of the Entertainment Software Association, which responded with a statement from Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kenneth Doroshow. “Online video games are a meaningful part of our participative culture. They remove geographic barriers, connecting people from across the country and around the world,” he said. “They teach cooperation, cultivate leadership skills, and empower users to express their creativity. Increasingly, games are used for training purposes and to educate students about complex social issues. Entertaining does not mean trivial.”
I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, I can see the point AT&T is making: It’s hard to envision a TF2 all-nighter as a priority when compared to matters of real, practical value. But speaking as someone who wandered the dial-up desert for years before finally (and relatively recently) getting some modicum of broadband, gaming and other “aspirational” services are the priority for many people because they’re the things dial-up users are actually excluded from. Chat, email and web surfing are all available over phone lines; it’s the things AT&T seems to want to exclude from the definition of broadband that are precisely what those users are missing out on.
Interesting in leaping into the fray yourself? More information about the debate and how to participate is available at broadband.gov.