Cox Introduces 'Elite Gamer' Internet Fast Lane

Most games do their best to offer level playing fields. Companies ban cheaters, carefully balance their titles, and take other precautions to make sure people can't buy their way to victory. Cox Communications wants to undo those efforts with the new Cox Elite Gamer service, which allows its customers to pay an extra $15 per month to make sure their connections to multiplayer game servers are handled as optimally as possible.

This is exactly the kind of "fast lane" that people warned about when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality protections. The internet was founded on the principle that companies shouldn't be able to charge their customers more when they access specific websites, or in this case, optimize the connections of those willing to pay higher fees. Services like Cox Elite Gamer undermine that principle.

Cox said on the Cox Elite Gamer website that the service offers 34 percent less lag, 55 percent fewer ping spikes, and 45 percent less jitter than its existing service. That's because traffic for specific games--including Apex Legends, Overwatch, and Fortnite--will be routed through a gaming-specific network. This also means that people who pay for Cox Elite Gamer won't suddenly have faster connections to other sites and services.

All three of those games have some form of lag compensation that's supposed to mitigate the benefits of having a better (or in some cases worse) connection than other players. Yet anyone who's played on different connections knows that it can make a difference. Just ask a Tracer player if a better connection to Overwatch's servers makes a difference with their ability usage, or a Fortnite player if building is harder on slow connections.

Those benefits and hindrances were previously hard to work around. Some companies offer their own network optimization tools for specific games, but generally speaking, the options were to find a different service provider or deal with the less-than-stellar connection. Cox Elite Gamer changes that. Now anyone willing to pay $15 per month has an inherent advantage over people who aren't simply because of Cox's new fast lane.

Variety noted in its report on Cox Elite Gamer that Cox denied plans to introduce fast lanes when the Associated Press contacted it in 2017. Apparently the company thinks it's been long enough that people will accept the Cox Gamer Elite service as a normal thing to offer, even though it undermines the principles the internet was built upon. 

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.