Comcast's new video services beamed to the Xbox 360 launch this week, requiring users have an Xbox Live Gold subscription and
subscribe to both Comcast Xfinity TV and Xfinity broadband services. As we noted yesterday
, Comcast's new video offering on the Xbox 360 won't count against the company's 250GB usage cap. As we also predicted, the announcement very quickly raised the hackles of those concerned that the move is in violation of the concept of network neutrality -- giving Comcast's own services a leg up in competition against Internet video alternatives.
"Comcast tries to justify preferred treatment for its own video on the Xbox 360 by claiming that the content is delivered over a private IP network rather than the public Internet," complained consumer group Free Press. "But not counting this video against a Comcast customer's monthly data limit gives the Comcast product an unfair advantage against other Internet video services. Unfortunately, such anti-competitive tricks may be allowed by loopholes in the FCC’s Open Internet rules, proving once again that the FCC failed to deliver on the promise of real Net Neutrality."
As we've noted
, any attempt to get real network neutrality consumer protections died in a hail of partisan bickering, idiocy and gunfire. The rules the FCC did wind up passing intentionally have holes large enough to drive a convoy of rather-large vehicles through -- assuming they even survive Verizon legal assault
in the first place.
In a statement, Comcast continues to argue that the service is exempt from such concerns because it never technically touches the public Internet.
"Comcast is committed to an open Internet and has pledged to abide by the FCC’s Open Internet rules – and our policies with respect to XfinityTV and the Xbox 360 fully comply with those rules and our commitments," says the company. "Any XfinityTV service that travels over the public Internet, including XfinityTV.com and our Xfinity TV app on mobile devices, counts toward our data usage threshold, as they always have."
The lynch pin of Comcast's argument is that the Xbox 360 is little more than another set top box -- it just happens to utilize IP video delivery. "The Xfinity On Demand content that we will deliver to Xbox 360 will not travel over the public Internet and is delivered in much the same way as we deliver your video service to your set top box," says the cable giant. "Your Xbox 360 essentially acts as an additional cable box for your existing cable service via the Xbox 360. As a result, our data usage thresholds do not apply."
Groups like Public Knowledge
are arguing that the pure Comcast-network delivery angle is irrelevant, as the service is simply another effort at cozy deals between corporate giants resulting in a more constricted and walled-garden content environment where consumers are shoved towards preferred content. "Comcast has transformed the competitive online video marketplace into a two-tiered world, where its own online video doesn’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else's," complains the group, adding that "the internet should reward the best services, not the ones with the right corporate owners."