Netflix Cries Foul Over Comcast Caps

The CEO of Netflix has accused Comcast of violating net neutrality principles over the way it handles internet video streaming. The Federal Communications Commission says it is taking the issue seriously, but it doesn’t appear Comcast has broken any binding regulations as they currently stand.

Netflix boss Reed Hastings made the comments in a Facebook post. He noted that he was able to access four video applications through his Xbox , namely HBO GO, Hulu, Netflix and Comcast’s own Xfinity. He complained that watching any of the first three services ate up his monthly data allowance, but watching on Xfinity did not:

“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?”

Questioned about the complaint, the FCC said it “takes seriously any allegations of violations of our open Internet rules.”

However, Comcast’s policy may not be breaching the existing rules. If you use Xfinity on a computer or iPad, it comes over the Internet and (as best I can tell) will count towards download caps. However, Xfinity videos on the Xbox are sent via Comcast’s own private network and don’t use up “Internet bandwidth.” It’s treated in the same way as video-on-demand services on a cable box — though of course, cable boxes usually don’t offer direct competition between video providers in the way the range of Xbox apps do.

Although this is currently perfectly legal, the FCC has previously said it is concerned about the lines being blurred. A situation such as this, where Comcast is following the letter of the law but arguably not the spirit, may influence the way the FCC seeks to revise and update Internet rules in future.

It is also fair to note that Hastings may be looking to pick a fight over an issue of principle rather than practicalities as the monthly data cap in question can be as high as 250GB and it appears rare that customers exceed it and rarer even that they suffer consequences.


9 Responses to Netflix Cries Foul Over Comcast Caps

  1. I actually have to side with Comcast in this particular argument. Any data streaming through their internal network costs them significantly less than data through partner backbone providers, so it's reasonable for them to include internal-only data without it applying to any bandwidth cap. This is doubly true because that xfinity service is *not free* – you can only access it if you are paying for xfinity tv service to begin with. You are, for all intents an purposes, paying for a second service on a separate infrastructure. Just because you can access both on your xbox does not make them the same.

    The real problem is with the cap itself in the first place.

    • I would agree with you normally, however Comcast et all have been very insistent that they have had to put in these data limit caps because the so called "last mile" was getting clogged up by so called power users. Is this no longer a problem and the data limits are sticking around because they find it very good for the profit margins?

      • They are separate networks with independent bandwidth allocations. PPV/xfinity services are provided dedicated bandwidth separate from the limits for their regional internet services, and as such aren't affected by the internet use of your neighbors (same goes for their VOIP services). They could be theoretically impacted by neighbors streaming use, but that's far more predictable than – and doesn't spike nearly as high as – household internet use.

  2. This whole internet cap deal, is the cable companies way of fighting people who don’t subscribe to cable and only get just the internet. They are trying to get back the money they know they are losing because if Hulu, Netflix, hbo go, and many other free apps that offer free programming. It’s stupid…why anyone would side with a cable company on this issue, means u must work for the cable company, they been charging us outrageous prices for years and now a cap…like we are going to run out of the internet? What a joke

    • A person agreeing with Comcast's perspective must work for a cable company? That's pretty narrow-minded and dismissive of any real debate that could be had on the topic. Since this is, I'm going to assume that we're all adults here; let's act like it and have a civilized debate on the issue. It's certainly one that needs to be thought through, as it could potentially have all sorts of net neutrality ramifications.

    • "… and now a cap…like we are going to run out of the internet?"

      Everytime someone overseas expresses disbelief at the idea of a cap on their internet, part of me just wants to curl up and cry. We're lucky to get a plan of 50GB a month for the whole household in NZ (can't afford more, next one down is 10GB).

  3. HBO Go is free?

    I grab my wallet every time someone from the government says "Hi, we're here to help you." Generally, that means I'm going to have to pay more for the service I want. Now, I'm for a "Free" and open Internet as much as the next guy, but when the FCC says there going to look at more rules and regulations, I think, "Gee, maybe if everyone cancelled their Comcast service, then maybe Comcast would get the point." if they all didn't want to cancel, then I guess it wasn't that big a deal in the first place and no government intervention was needed.

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