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Comcast Faces Broadband Cap Flap

Pressure group Public Knowledge says Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s decision to exempt its Xfinity TV on the Xbox 360 from broadband data caps violates a condition of its NBCUniversal LLC merger.

On Wednesday, the group filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , asking it to enforce the terms of the Comcast-NBC Universal merger:

Neither Comcast nor C-NBCU shall engage in unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices, the purpose or effect of which is to hinder significantly or prevent any MPVD [multichannel video programming distributor] or OVD [online video distributor] from providing Video Programming online to subscribers or customers.


Comcast's policy for the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) game console has also caught heat from Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX). (See Netflix Cranks Up the Net Neutrality Heat .)

Comcast had no immediate comment about the Public Knowledge complaint, but its data-capping policies are already in flux. It ditched its old, monthly 250-gigabyte cap on "excessive use" in May as it pursues new policies that raise the monthly threshold to at least 300GB per month and charge a fee for a bucket of gigabytes if a customer exceeds the limit. "We're out of the cap business," Comcast EVP David Cohen declared at the time.

Comcast's first test of this new approach got underway today in Nashville, Tenn., with more trials on the way.

Outside of the cap discussion, Comcast has already argued that its Xfinity TV app data policy for the Xbox 360 doesn't violate network neutrality rules because that content is being delivered by a managed IP video network -- rather than "over-the-top" via the public Internet -- and that it views the Xbox 360 like another set-top box.

Public Knowledge says that from a viewer's perspective there's no difference between the Xfinity app and a competing Internet video app.

Why this matters
If the FCC decides to do anything about Public Knowledge's petition, the Commission could prevent Comcast from using any type of hard data caps and perhaps cause the operator to alter its current plan to use policies that link soft caps with overage fees.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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