Comcast's Xfinity TV app has been met with controversy since it debuted on the Xbox 360, and may be the latest battleground in the conflict over net neutrality. Critics claim that the ISP is privileging its Xfinity offering above competitors like Hulu and Netflix, while Comcast denies prioritizing Xfinity traffic, and maintains that it is compliant with the FCC's net neutrality rules.
Nov 21, 2015
Comcast says its streaming TV service won't count against data caps because it doesn't use the internet
Comcast internet subscribers shopping around for streaming video services are going to have a pretty convincing reason to opt for the company's own product, called Stream TV. That's because data used for the service won't count against subscribers' data caps, which start at 300GB per month. In addition, bandwidth used by the service won't impact your network speeds — Comcast will route Stream TV data over bandwidth you aren't paying for, so your internet speeds won't drop while you're watching TV. Needless to say, competing services like Netflix, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV enjoy no such advantages.Read Article >
Stream TV launched in its first markets, Boston and Chicago, this past week, and the company confirmed to Ars Technica that data used for the service wouldn't be counted for data caps. In an FAQ, the company explains that since "Stream TV is a cable streaming service delivered over Comcast's cable system, not over the internet," it won't impact your data usage.
Aug 28, 2013
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."Read Article >
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.
Jun 13, 2012
When Comcast announced that its Xfinity app for Xbox 360 wouldn't count against its internet subscriber's data caps, it got an earful from net neutrality advocates, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and Senator Al Franken. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Department of Justice has stepped in, investigating cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, among others, to see if they're acting unfairly towards the online video services they host on their network. More specifically, the DOJ is investigating if Comcast's Xbox application violates antitrust agreements the company made when it took over NBCUniversal in 2011, the very same issue that Senator Al Franken brought up early last month. In May, Comcast claimed it was complying with net neutrality principles, but the cable provider actually suggested that rivals were not. Sony actually stated that it was waiting to launch its promised IPTV service until the issue was ironed out.Read Article >
The Journal is characterizing the move as "a wide-ranging antitrust investigation," and anonymous sources tell the publication that Netflix and Hulu are among the online video providers being interviewed. We'll keep you posted if any particular discoveries come to light during the probe.
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Comcast has responded to allegations that it privileges content for its Xfinity app for the Xbox 360 over competitors like Netflix, claiming that it does not prioritize its own content and that it is in compliance with the FCC's open internet principles. Comcast says that the Xbox 360 "essentially acts as an additional cable box for your existing cable service," and that it sends the content on a managed network that's separate from its traditional cable delivery service. The ISP says that it provides "separate, additional bandwidth flow into the home for the use of this service — above and beyond, and distinct from, the bandwidth a customer has for his or her regular internet access service." Comcast stresses that "in contrast to some other providers, we are not prioritizing our transmission of Xfinity TV content to the Xbox." This isn't likely to be the last word on Comcast's network management practices, so stay tuned: we'll be tracking this story closely as it develops.
A detailed study from technical infrastructure expert Bryan Berg reveals that Comcast may be prioritizing traffic for its own Xfinity app for Xbox 360 over other services, like Netflix — which, if accurate, would be a bold deviation from the spirit of the FCC's net neutrality principles. This isn't the first time an issue has arisen with Comcast's Xfinity app, as the company's decision to exempt its app from bandwidth caps raised the eyebrows of net neutrality advocates, including Senator Al Franken (D-MN). But this latest accusation is much more serious than the bandwidth cap issue, since bandwidth prioritization could have a material impact on the quality of service of Comcast's competitors in comparison to the company's own offering.Read Article >
Comcast has argued that its Xfinity service is exempt from the FCC's net neutrality principles because it is delivered over its own private network rather than the open internet. But Berg says that "contrary to what has been widely speculated, the Xfinity traffic is not delivered via separate, dedicated downstream channel(s) — it uses the same downstream channels as regular internet traffic." Additionally, Berg notes that "Comcast openly admits to prioritizing certain kinds of traffic — like their digital voice product" and that "it's clear that some configuration is in place to do so." He concludes that "Comcast is using separate DOCSIS service flows to prioritize the traffic to the Xfinity Xbox app," and that "this separation allows them to exempt that traffic from both bandwidth cap accounting and download speed limits."
May 7, 2012
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.Read Article >
"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.
Apr 16, 2012
It's no secret Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings thinks Comcast's data caps are unfair. Last month he posted a message on Facebook complaining about how data used by Comcast's Xfinity app for the Xbox 360 doesn't count toward his monthly Comcast data cap, unlike competing service HBO Go. Now Hastings is back on Facebook (post below), saying essentially the same thing, only this time he's cutting straight to the net neutrality point.Read Article >
It's unlikely that Comcast is going to stop being selective about its data caps just because of a couple of Facebook posts — it's going to take pressure from Washington, and Netflix recently established its Flixpac public action committee to get just that. We thought the formation of the PAC might move the argument off of the Facebook wall and into the boardroom, but it looks like Hastings is going to keep making the necessary noise online to get his complaint heard. Or at least liked.
Mar 26, 2012
"[Broadband internet providers] shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer's broadband Internet access service." FCC 10-201, paragraph 68The FCC says that the "Open Internet" is open because "it treats all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way" — so Comcast's decision to privilege its Xfinity On Demand service for Xbox 360 with free data, while requiring other apps like Netflix and Hulu to count against customer data caps, would appear to directly violate the spirit of the FCC's net neutrality efforts. Comcast says that it can enjoy this privilege because "the service travels in an IP format over our private IP network versus the public internet," but regardless of its origin, the service clearly competes with other IP-based video services at the point of consumption.Read Article >
Gigi Sohn, head of digital rights watchdog Public Knowledge, says that Comcast's actions raise "questions not only of the justification for the caps but, more importantly, of the survival of the Open Internet." Sohn argues that "this type of arrangement is exactly the type of situation the FCC's rules on the Open Internet were designed to prevent — that an ISP juggles the rules to give itself an advantage over a competitor."
Mar 26, 2012
A big part of Microsoft's major revamp of the Xbox 360 Dashboard late last year was lots of new video content, such as Verizon's FiOS TV, Vevo, and ESPN, but a few selections were going to be absent until early 2012. One of those was Comcast's Xfinity On Demand service, but an FAQ on the Xfinity site seems to indicate that it'll be launching sooner than later. The biggest item of note here for potential users of this service is the news that Comcast will not count streaming of Xfinity On Demand against users' bandwidth caps. As Comcast says on its site, "since the content is being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet, it does not count against a customer's bandwidth cap."Read Article >
There's a few other noteworthy tidbits as well, like the fact that the Xfinity TV app will work with Kinect and the fact that the app will be integrated into the new Xbox Dashboard's new search functionality. However, it's worth remembering that this only applies to Xfinity On Demand TV — there's no ability to watch live TV included whatsoever. That's all good news for anyone who hoped to heavily utilize this service once it launches — as to when that launch will be, Comcast still isn't saying. We heard "early 2012," so we'd expect to see it sooner than later.