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Cox wants gamers to pay an extra $15 for ‘elite’ internet that isn’t actually faster

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You might see less latency and jitter, but this seems dubious

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Internet provider Cox is offering a $15 / month service that it dubs Cox Elite Gamer, an internet bill add-on that the company claims will optimize the connection between players and video game servers for hugely popular titles like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Overwatch. For customers who sign up for the service, Cox says it will seek out the most efficient path to a game’s server. Theoretically, this could result in reduced ping and a lower latency, which is a huge factor in any shooter like those mentioned above. But is it all snake oil nonsense?

For one, Cox Elite Gamer doesn’t actually speed up your internet connection itself; the ISP told Motherboard that “it does not alter speed in any way, nor does it prioritize any traffic over others on our network.” Cox doesn’t want people thinking of this as a “fast lane.” Instead, it’s about cutting down on congestion and the number of hops between your gaming PC and whatever server you’re trying to reach.

Specifically, the company claims Cox Elite Gamer can deliver 34 percent less lag, 45 percent less jitter, and 55 percent fewer ping spikes when compared to its regular, everyday internet service. Other network traffic on your account is unaffected.

Image: Cox

Elite Gamer is being trialed right now in Arizona and is only available to customers who have Cox’s 100 Mbps plan or better. The $15 price will cover simultaneous play on two PCs in a home, but you’ll need to pay $5 for each additional computer beyond that.

It’s very easy to see how Cox can make money from this, but whether it’ll actually benefit gamers is less clear. Motherboard says the track record for these types of services has been spotty. Some people do notice an improvement, and Cox lets users install an app so they can gauge their current connection to a game.

Image: Cox

Many people on Reddit are highly skeptical of Cox Elite Gamer. Cox claims subscribers can “control their connection from end to end,” but the company simply doesn’t have the sort of infrastructure to make good on that promise. Cox has no say on what happens to your gaming activity outside of its own network. The most it can do is determine the best path to a server. That’s doable, and it might be enough to produce at least some improvement in terms of latency and jitter.

Cox says gamers can control their connection to a server from end to end.
Image: Cox

As it stands, users do get a fair amount of control over server paths, but this also allows for confusion, and it might make it difficult to tell whether Cox Elite Gamer is really making a difference. The company’s tips for optimizing Cox Elite Gamer performance are also very generic, urging users to use a wired Ethernet connection, close apps that might be downloading content from the web, and disengage any antivirus or VPN software that might slow things up.

It seems that the odds of Cox Elite Gamer being enough to justify tacking $15 onto your broadband bill every month are fairly low. But if you’re participating in the soft launch, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.