Senator Al Franken has long been an outspoken supporter of network neutrality and an opponent of a 2010 joint venture between NBC Universal and Comcast, so it's not surprising that he's deeply concerned about Comcast's plan for Xfinity On Demand. In a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice today, Franken urged both agencies to reexamine Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, citing a number of recent problems and complaints. Among them was the recent announcement that data sent through Xfinity's app on the Xbox 360 would not count towards bandwidth caps.
"Your agencies were keenly aware that Comcast would have every incentive to violate net neutrality principles by prioritizing or advantaging its cable and video on demand service," says Franken. If Comcast does so, it could run afoul of the Department of Justice, which prohibited Comcast from measuring, counting, or otherwise treating "affiliated network traffic differently from unaffiliated network traffic" during the merger. By offering free data as part of a metered service, he says, Comcast "will almost certainly drive consumers to Comcast's Xfinity Streampix, rather other internet video streaming services," allowing it to shut out potentially better services with its power as an internet provider and creating an unequal playing field.
Despite this, Franken admits he's not sure whether the plan is a technical violation of the merger agreement. Comcast has previously said that its actions are legitimate "since the content is being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet," and Franken concurs that it may be legally in the right. However, he's urging the FCC and DOJ to investigate, saying that it "raises serious questions about how Comcast will favor its own content and services to the detriment of its competitors."