Comcast Corp. Chief Technology Officer Tony Werner took to the company's blog Tuesday to deny that the MSO is prioritizing video traffic that it's sending via IP to the Xbox 360 game console or violating network neutrality rules in any way.
"Specifically, we provision a 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," Werner wrote.
Werner's explanation is in response to recent speculation that the MSO may be favoring packets for its Xfinity TV app for the gaming console by tagging them with Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) markings. The new details are also coming out as Comcast continues to get heat from Netflix Inc. because Xfinity TV video-on-demand (VoD) traffic to the Xbox 360 is exempt from the MSO's monthly 250-Gigabyte Internet consumption cap while traffic from over-the-top apps (like Netflix, of course) are not. Comcast's Xfinity TV app for the iPad uses the public Internet and is therefore subject to the cap. (See Netflix Cranks Up the Net Neutrality Heat , Netflix CEO Keeps Whining About Comcast, Comcast Won't Cap Xbox 360 Streaming and Comcast Draws the Line at 250GB.)
Criticism of the policy is coming at an important time, because Comcast and other U.S. MSOs are just now starting to migrate some of their managed video services to IP.
Werner acknowledged that DSCP can be used to prioritize packets but said that's not how Comcast is using the technology.
Comcast, Werner added, is using DSCP to mark the Xfinity TV packets so the network knows that those packets must be transmitted from the cable modem termination system (CMTS) over a separate service flow than packets that are coming in from the public Internet. So, in essence, Comcast says it's managing Xfinity TV IP video traffic separately, similar in ways to how AT&T Inc. provisions bandwidth for its managed U-verse IPTV service.
Comcast has already argued that Xfinity TV content delivered to the Xbox is not subject to its high-speed Internet cap, because it is delivered over the MSO's private IP network and that it views the Xbox 360 as another set-top box.
And that brings up another component of this debate that's central to Comcast's argument and sure to get lots of attention in the weeks and months ahead. Comcast holds that Xfinity TV content to the Xbox is akin to its "traditional television service," meaning that it's governed by Title VI of the Communications Act and therefore not subject to network neutrality rules that govern the public Internet.
The key difference here, in Comcast's view, is simply that Xfinity TV traffic to the console is being delivered by a managed IP video network rather than via the also managed QAM-based platform it uses to deliver most of its video services to digital set-top boxes. The MSO claims that the same rules should apply no matter which delivery method is used.
â€” Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable