Watchdogs Cheer DOJ Probe Of Comcast Data Caps
Comcast recently said it would allow Xfinity subscribers to stream shows to their Xboxes without counting that data toward the 250 GB monthly cap.
Understandably, that news didn't sit well with Netflix, which argued that Comcast shouldn't give consumers a reason to watch its online video instead of offerings by competitors.
Comcast subsequently said it was going to increase monthly data caps to 300GB while also testing a new pay-per-byte billing system that would allow users to purchase additional data. Comcast also said it would temporarily suspend data caps until it's ready to roll out new billing models.
But that apparently wasn't enough to stave off an investigation by the Justice Department, which is now probing whether cable companies are unfairly trying to restrict people's ability to access online video, according to The Wall Street Journal. One aspect of the investigation reportedly centers on whether Comcast's decision to exclude Xbox streams from the data caps violates the net neutrality conditions it agreed to in order to acquire NBCUniversal.
Consumer groups cheered news of the probe. “Media and telecommunications giants, which can be one and the same, should not be able to take advantage of their size and reach to eliminate competition and to harm consumers through data caps which favor some content over other based on business relationships, through contract terms that could restrict where programming can be shown, or other means," Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld said in a statement.
Free Press policy director Matt Wood called the investigation "great news for consumers" as well as competitors to cable. "Caps can discriminate against competing online video services, and even without discriminatory treatment they generally discourage customers' use of services delivered over the Internet," he said in a statement.