With the launch of its Xfinity entertainment services on Xbox Live this week, Comcast finds itself having to defend the way it is handling its data capping policy. Comcast's new video services require users have an Xbox Live Gold subscription as well as subscriptions to Xfinity TV and Xfinity broadband services. Using these services won't count against customers' 250GB usage cap. Some groups see this as a violation of network neutrality -because it gives preferential treatment to traffic and to an in-house Internet video service. When rights groups complained about the NBC Universal and Comcast merger, they predicted that Comcast would give its services priority over other traffic.
"Comcast tries to justify preferred treatment for its own video on the Xbox 360 by claiming that the content is delivered over a private IP network rather than the public Internet," complained consumer group Free Press. "But not counting this video against a Comcast customer's monthly data limit gives the Comcast product an unfair advantage against other Internet video services. Unfortunately, such anti-competitive tricks may be allowed by loopholes in the FCC’s Open Internet rules, proving once again that the FCC failed to deliver on the promise of real Net Neutrality."
In a carefully crafted statement, Comcast argued that the service is exempt because it "technically" doesn't use the Internet.
"Comcast is committed to an open Internet and has pledged to abide by the FCC’s Open Internet rules – and our policies with respect to XfinityTV and the Xbox 360 fully comply with those rules and our commitments," says the company. "Any XfinityTV service that travels over the public Internet, including XfinityTV.com and our Xfinity TV app on mobile devices, counts toward our data usage threshold, as they always have."
The main thrust of their argument is that the Xbox 360 is a set-top box.
"The Xfinity On Demand content that we will deliver to Xbox 360 will not travel over the public Internet and is delivered in much the same way as we deliver your video service to your set top box," says Comcast. "Your Xbox 360 essentially acts as an additional cable box for your existing cable service via the Xbox 360. As a result, our data usage thresholds do not apply."
Public Knowledge counters that the Comcast "network delivery angle" is highly irrelevant because the service is an exclusive deal between corporate giants that results in a closed content environment.
"Comcast has transformed the competitive online video marketplace into a two-tiered world, where its own online video doesn’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else's," PK says, adding that "the internet should reward the best services, not the ones with the right corporate owners."
Source: DSL Reports