Time Warner Cable became the latest cable company to turn the Xbox 360 into a set-top box yesterday with the release of an app that lets its customers stream up to 300 live channels. It may have also became the latest cable provider to deliver that content in a way that might skirt around net neutrality rules: according to GigaOM, not a single bit of that data will count against TWC customers' data caps. TWC explained the decision to GigaOM, noting that the app "isn't an internet offering." That's nearly the exact argument that Comcast cited when it came under fire for applying the very same data policies for its TV-streaming Xfinity app for the 360 last year, saying that it "essentially acts as an additional cable box."
The two biggest cable companies are now following the same policies when it comes to select set-top box replacements. The concern becomes that cable providers are prioritizing their own traffic over the traffic of third parties. In TWC's use, it could make customers choose to stream movies and TV shows through TWC's app while ignoring Hulu or Netflix when they don't have enough data for it. This isn't likely to affect many customers just yet, however, as most of TWC's plans aren't subject to data caps, but the company does provide less expensive rates to some customers who are willing to commit to one. We've reached out to TWC to learn more about its policies for the new app and will update if we hear back.
Update: Time Warner Cable has confirmed with The Verge that use of the new app does not count against its customers' data caps, nor does home data use from any of its desktop or mobile apps either. Like Comcast, TWC says that it's sending the traffic along its "privately managed IP-based network" — and therefore not using the public internet.