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Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns

Jeff Baumgartner
3/27/2012

Tuesday's cable news roundup kicks off with some fresh fodder for the network neutrality debate.

  • It didn't take long for Public Knowledge and Free Press -- two network neutrality advocates -- to chafe upon hearing that streaming of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s video-on-demand (VoD) content to the Xbox 360 will not count against the MSO's monthly 250GB data cap because it's being piped in over IP via Comcast's private network rather than the public Internet, like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) does with its managed U-verse video services. (See Net Neutrality Rules Dodge a Bullet and Comcast Won't Cap Xbox 360 Streaming .)

    But that sort of comparison hasn't stopped Public Knowledge President and CEO Gigi B. Sohn to argue that the MSO's policy "is exactly the type of situation the FCC rules on the Open Internet were designed to prevent -- that an Internet Service Provider juggles the rules to give itself an advantage over a competitor." Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood piled on by labeling such policies as "anti-competitive tricks" looking to open loopholes in the FCC's rules that would put other broadband video services at a disadvantage.

  • Comcast's authenticated Xfinity TV VoD service will reportedly go live on the Xbox 360 sometime Tuesday. However, at last check, it appears that most users are still waiting:



  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s latest acquisition target is the subject of a security scandal in the U.K. BBC Panorama reports that video security and software specialist NDS Ltd. is accused of hacking ITV Digital, a former rival of Sky TV that went under in 2002. NDS and Sky TV are both still tied to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NYSE: NWS). According to the report, NDS allegedly leaked info from ITV Digital to create counterfeit smart cards. NDS, which told Panorama that the allegations involving ITV are false, was recently cleared in a similar case involving EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS). (See EchoStar Pays $18.9M to Settle NDS Suit and Cisco Bets $5B More on Video With NDS.)

  • Video middleware and software firm Alticast Corp. has tapped cable vet John Carlucci as its first-ever CTO for the Americas. Carlucci most recently served as CTO of Clearleap , and was VP of engineering at PolyCipher LLC , an MSO-based video security joint venture. Before that, he held high-level engineering posts at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) and Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT).

  • Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) has walked away from a deal to revive Terra Nova, a Steven Spielberg-produced drama that was recently canceled by Fox, says The Wrap.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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    Jeff Baumgartner
    Jeff Baumgartner
    12/5/2012 | 5:38:00 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns


    So, at what point do these groups start pointing the finger at any SP that delivers video over a managed IP network and doesn't apply those services toward any sort of data cap? Might as well toss AT&T into that group, along with a bunch of other telcos that are offering managed IPTV services. Though they'd be wrong to do so.


    The other interesting aspect here is that MSOs like Comcast will have to embrace IP video if they are to get their services, including linear TV,  onto more CE platforms like Roku and the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, not to mention connected TVs.   So if managed IP video is the vehicle to get cable services available on more retail devices without an MSO-supplied set-top, it seems  a tad ironic that PK and Free Press are trying to lump net neutrality into this when they have been among those pushing for cable to do a better job at supporting services on retail CE devices.


    If Comcast reversed course and said it was going to start applying data from managed IP video toward a cap, I think there would be an absolute uproar.  After the P2P fiasco from awhile back, I would think Free Press and PK would give Comcast some credit here for being transparent about its policy for Xfinity TV on the Xbox 360, though I am certainly interested in hearing more about how Comcast is going about it, technically speaking.


    But I'll admit that this will cause some confusion for customers, who are now supposed to figure out  which apps on the Xbox 360 count against a usage cap (ie. Netflix) and which ones don't. I doubt that the average consumer knows the difference between OTT and managed IP video, or would even care to know.  JB

    yarn
    yarn
    12/5/2012 | 5:37:58 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns


    I fail to understand the rationale here. Unfair would be when a service provider charges a user for a service they have not used, which would be the case if the SP charges Internet usage fees for using a managed video service. The managed video service charges content usage which includes delivery. If an Internet-based content service does not cover this delivery cost then the onus is on them to clearly state that additional Internet service charges may apply. Which they do. Like the Netflix terms of use state: "You are responsible for all Internet access charges. Please check with your Internet provider for information on possible Internet data usage charges". Problem solved.

    Jeff Baumgartner
    Jeff Baumgartner
    12/5/2012 | 5:37:57 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns


    One annoying hiccup. It's making me power cycle the router each time I sign off and then try to sign on again. JB

    DCITDave
    DCITDave
    12/5/2012 | 5:37:57 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns


    Two things perplex me here. 


    1) To date, have Public Knowledge and the Free Press ever taken a thoughtful, reasonable stance on any issue that helped businesses and consumers at the same time? It seems that once in a while news sources should say something useful to justify giving them continued exposure. 


    2) What about the Xbox/Comcast relationship -- a consumer paying a provider for a video service delivered on a specified device -- has anything to do with Net Neutrality? The arrangement doesn't suddenly mean that Comcast is blocking any free Internet content or treating it with any bias on its network.


    ph


     

    Jeff Baumgartner
    Jeff Baumgartner
    12/5/2012 | 5:37:57 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns


    Took a few minutes to authenticate, but I was able to get the Xfinity app downloaded and running this afternoon... i'll try it out for a bit and videotape a test run and post it a bit later on.


    <img alt="" src="http://img.lightreading.com/2012/03/219187/9227.jpg">


    &nbsp;

    Jeff Baumgartner
    Jeff Baumgartner
    12/5/2012 | 5:37:56 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns





    The pressure they put on Comcast a few years ago did play a part in them moving to a more acceptable&nbsp;protocol-agnostic traffic management system and off the one that targeted specific protocols&nbsp;like P2P.&nbsp; But seems like there's lots of agreement that their argument on this net neutrality one falls short; i'll be surprised if it turns into a formal complaint.&nbsp;


    But I suspect they will keep the pressure on when it comes to bandwidth caps in general&nbsp;as they seek a&nbsp;probe into those and try to get&nbsp;SPs to provide more&nbsp;justificaiton on those policies. But it is ironic to see them get a bit riled that data for&nbsp; Comcast's streaming service for the&nbsp;Xbox streaming won't&nbsp;count toward usage caps... as I said before, they should give Comcast credit for being transparent on it whether they agree with the policy or not.&nbsp; I'd wager they'd be even more upset if Comcast decided to apply that data toward the usage&nbsp;cap. JB


    &nbsp;




    Jeff Baumgartner
    Jeff Baumgartner
    12/5/2012 | 5:37:53 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns


    Not sure why that is. Well,&nbsp; look at it this way... it's something to keep him challenged as he gets up there in age. JB &nbsp;

    AESerm
    AESerm
    12/5/2012 | 5:37:53 PM
    re: Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns


    Sorry to change the subject from the knee-jerk reactions of PK and FP, but what is it about Splelberg and the television? (Apart from some mini-series.) His science fiction on the big screen just doesn't seem to fly on the TV screen.&nbsp;

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