For a League of Legends player, there is no experience more frustrating than playing with a slow internet connection or suffering from random packet loss. Though this has typically been attributed to server locations or simply ‘random instances of bad luck’, it has emerged that internet service provider Time Warner Cable has been defrauding consumers by deliberately providing a service considerably slower than advertised. Riot Games, alongside the streaming service Netflix, are on the hunt for justice.
The revelatory case, led by New York’s attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, paints a damning picture of the Time Warner Cable operation. Primarily, Schneiderman claims that the service provider worked in secret to confuse the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in addition to ripping off both Riot Games and Netflix, failing to upgrade their service after signing agreements with the two companies.
On behalf of the expansive consumer base who were intentionally exposed to poor service performance – specifically Netflix subscribers and League of Legends summoners – Schneiderman is out for retribution. Riot Games has been a prominent party in the case from the beginning, providing performance data analysis from its own servers as testament to TWC’s fraudulent practices.
As outlined by the New York Attorney General’s complaint:
- Riot Games carefully tracked the latency of its servers and packet loss to measure its customers’ service quality.
- In general, Riot Games specified a “stable latency” of less than 60 milliseconds and a packet loss of less than two percent to ensure a “good network experience.”
- Latency above 100 milliseconds affected performance in key parts of the game, creating lag time that put Spectrum-TWC subscribers at a disadvantage to their gaming competitors on other ISP networks. Similarly, packet loss of more than two percent resulted in interruptions, buffering, and other performance issues.
When it seemed that the service provider couldn’t sink any lower, they opted to hold Riot to a ‘lag ransom’. Following Riot’s complaints regarding the inexplicable lag the player base were experiencing, TWC offered to magically solve the issue, a hardball tactic to which Riot finally admitted defeat in August of 2015.
Before the deal was finalised, lag and data-packet loss for League of Legends players were far above the standards Riot was aiming for. Miraculously, after the two tech companies reached an unpleasant deal, the numbers improved – all the while, TWC continuously advertised that it was providing a premium gaming experience.
“When connecting wirelessly, subscribers on the 300 Mbps plan typically received 15% of the promised speed; subscribers on the 200 Mbps plan received 20% of the promised speed;
“…subscribers on the 100 Mbps plan received 39% of the promised speed; and subscribers on the 50 Mbps plan received 58% of the promised speed.”
New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman
What will the case mean for TWC customers and League of Legends players? The state is seeking $5,000 for every instance of “false advertising” ran by TWC in New York state. In theory this would entail that every advertisement TWC ran from January 1, 2012 until February 1, 2017 would cost the company $5,000.
Bearing in mind that on a national scale, TWC spent approximately $245 million in 2014 on advertising alone, this could translate into a mind-boggling amount. Additionally, the attorney general hopes to collect damages on behalf of the 900,000 customers directly affected… summoners may finally receive compensation for all those promotion series lost to lag and all the keyboards smashed because of plummeting packet loss.
In terms of future alternatives, League of Legends players are naturally restricted on their choice of service provider by their geographical location; the prayers for widespread Google Fiber are intensifying. In reality however, the price of expanding a fiber network is hefty, plus Google never intended to own the entire nations infrastructure, they just wanted the infrastructure to be better… evidently a just cause.
So whilst Google Fiber was perhaps the best hope to bring American internet up to the international par and provide NA League of Legends players with Korean-style ping, it seems that the Time Warner Cable case will just be another small victory in a perpetually-losing battle.