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FCC Looking Into Comcast’s Potentially Unfair Broadband Capping

Posted on the 17 April 2012 by Streaming_guru @StreamingServic
Image representing Reed Hastings as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

In a recent article entitled Comcast Stirring the Net Neutrality Pot, we noted that Comcast appears to be giving themselves an unfair advantage by not counting Comcast on Demand content streamed through Xbox 360 against their data caps.  Data caps are definitely not conducive to viewing video online, which tend to munch through data at a much quicker rate than simple internet surfing.  Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently posted on Facebook the following complaints about Comcast:

Comcast no longer following net neutrality principles.

Comcast should apply caps equally, or not at all.

I spent the weekend enjoying four good internet video apps on my Xbox: Netflix, HBO GO, Xfinity, and Hulu.

When I watch video on my Xbox from three of these four apps, it counts against my Comcast internet cap. When I watch through Comcast’s Xfinity app, however, it does not count against my Comcast internet cap.

For example, if I watch last night’s SNL episode on my Xbox through the Hulu app, it eats up about one gigabyte of my cap, but if I watch that same episode through the Xfinity Xbox app, it doesn’t use up my cap at all.

The same device, the same IP address, the same wifi, the same internet connection, but totally different cap treatment.

In what way is this neutral?

Comcast service van, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan

Comcast service van, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comcast’s monthly cap is 250 gigabytes, and there have been stories about customers actually having their service suspended by Comcast for just barely going over this cap.  If one SNL episode eats up one gigabyte, a family of four could easily chomp through the 250 gigabyte cap in a month.

What is even more suspect, though, is that Comcast On Demand is only available to customers who subscribe to Xfinity’s internet and TV services.  Subscription television is getting extremely expensive, and streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu Plus are gaining a lot of popularity because consumers can enjoy a lot of the same content for considerably less money.  So this move on Comcast’s part to not count streamed Xfinity content though Xbox against data usage could be a very strong incentive for consumers to not abandon their pay television subscription in lieu of a cheaper streaming service, because they will be able to protect data every time they stream Xfinity content.

Comcast defends itself, stating that Xfinity video is delivered via private networks, the same as their subscription television content, not the public internet.  Netflix and Hulu content is delivered over the public internet.

However, this move by Comcast has gotten the attention of the FCC, who stated on April 16 that it “takes seriously any allegations of violations of our open internet rules.”  These rules state that internet providers must treat all traffic moving over the public internet the same, but it does allow the ISPs to treat traffic moving over their private networks differently.  The FCC did note in December 2010 that there are risks to allowing them to provide specialized services, particularly if internet providers do not expand, or even constrict, public internet infrastructures in favor  of protecting their private networks, and essentially forcing people to choose them or lose out.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of consumer outrage as consumers, who are used to unlimited internet access, begin to enjoy streaming on a regular basis and find out that using data could cost them dearly – even get them booted by their internet provider in limited examples.  We hope that the FCC develops stricter rules regarding the advancement of the open internet so that consumers can have choice.  Data caps have really hampered the lifestyles of our friends in Canada, who are just beginning to enjoy streaming services like Netflix Canada.  This scenario just might provide a framework for both the United States and Canada to clamp down on potential mini-monopoly situations.

 

Source:  http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/04/16/netflix-ceos-comcast-complaints-draw-in-fcc/?mod=google_news_blog

http://www.facebook.com/reed1960

http://gigaom.com/broadband/lets-talk-about-the-broadband-cap-gap/

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