Many internet providers try to court gamers by promising more bandwidth, but Cox is betting that reduced lag may be a better hook. It’s launching an Elite Gamer service that promises lower PC gaming latency at no extra charge ($5 per extra device for up to three more) if you have Cox’s Panoramic WiFi hardware. It’s $7 per month if you have a different modem. The plan routes traffic to game servers using the “most efficient path,” theoretically improving the lag and overall stability.
The company claims substantial results. Cox’s promo page touts 34 percent lower lag versus a typical connection, 55 percent fewer ping spikes and 45 percent less “jitter.” You should have fewer instances where a hiccup ruins a crucial game moment, to put it more plainly.
There are caveats, and not just the lack of support for console or mobile players. Elite Gamer is enabled on a title-by-title basis, and the compatibility list won’t always make you happy. Cox mostly covers the bases for games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, Overwatch and Rainbow Six: Siege, but it’s not a comprehensive list — we didn’t see Valorant when we wrote this, for example. You’re trusting that Cox will improve the traffic quality for a game in a timely fashion, and it may be less compelling if you have to wait months to claim a competitive edge.
And while Cox told Engadget that this doesn’t violate the spirit of net neutrality, including the 2015 rules that were scrapped by Ajit Pai’s FCC, it’s still true that you’re paying extra to get better performance for certain kinds of software. The company is just going about things in a different, more neutral method — it’s defining the routing once your data leaves the Cox network, rather than managing things inside that network. This could run on “any ISP’s network,” Cox said. That’s good news to some degree, but it still risks creating a two-tiered system where gamers who can’t justify a new modem or a monthly fee are at a disadvantage.
Update 6/25 12:05PM ET: We’ve updated the pricing to reflect the final costs. Also, Cox told Engadget that the omission of Valorant in the list was an error — the company is adding it shortly.