When Comcast merged with NBC Universal, the cable giant vowed not to unfairly thwart other companies that offer online video programming.
Did Comcast violate that promise with the Xfinity for Xbox app? Advocacy group Public Knowledge says the answer is yes.
Earlier this year, Comcast unveiled a service that allows Xfinity subscribers to watch TV on demand on their Xbox 360 consoles. That in itself isn't problematic. But Comcast also told subscribers that data streamed to the Xbox through this program won't count against their monthly caps.
The decision obviously could disadvantage Netflix, Hulu and other streaming providers; if people have a choice, there's no reason for them to stream video through a service that will eat up their monthly broadband allotment as opposed to one that doesn't. (In May, Comcast temporarily suspended the data caps, but is expected to reinstate them.)
Today, Public Knowledge filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission about the service. Public Knowledge says that Comcast's move violates the company's promise not to engage in unfair acts that hinder other video providers.
"Comcast’s practice of counting all unaffiliated, but not its own, content against a customer’s data cap significantly hinders an [online video distributor] from providing content to customers," the group argues. "A customer could watch Xfinity-delivered online video 24 hours a day for an entire month and not run into a problem. With any other online video service, a customer could hit her cap before the end of the first week."
Comcast also takes the position that the Xbox 360 app doesn't run over the Internet, but a "private IP network." The company says that the app "essentially acts as an additional cable box for your existing cable service."
Public Knowledge doesn't think much of that argument. "If Comcast can simply label a broadband Internet service a 'cable' service and thus exempt it from oversight, as it has tried to do here, then all of the Commission's attempts to protect the Open Internet, promote competitive online video service, and enhance consumer choice will be for nothing," the group says.
Public Knowledge is asking for an order prohibiting Comcast from treating video delivered to the Xbox differently than streams from other companies.