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Comcast Won’t Cap Xfinity TV Streams on Xbox 360

26 Mar, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

In a twist in the ongoing data-limit issue, Comcast Corp. won’t count accumulated Xfinity TV video streams accessed via Xbox 360 against subscriber monthly data caps.

The No. 1 cable operator’s video-on-demand Xfinity TV platform is set to launch soon on Xbox 360, in addition to Verizon’s FiOS TV, among other multichannel video program distributors.

Data caps — once considered a nuisance only to Web hermits and content gluttonous types — have become an issue as cable and telco operators impose limits affecting subscribers’ ability to stream unlimited movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus, in addition to playlists via music subscription services, without incurring additional monthly charges.

Comcast, on its Xfinity frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) page, said that since the video content to Xbox 360 is delivered over its private IP network and not the public Internet, it does not count against a customer’s bandwidth cap.

Comcast currently has a fairly generous 250GB cap, which would require a Netflix subscriber to stream about 100 hours of content per month to reach the limit, according to arstechnica.com, which first reported the story.

Indeed, Netflix subs currently stream about an hour a day, which represents about a third of the century mark required to top Comcast’s data cap, according to BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield.

Meanwhile, Comcast could use the policy as a competitive advantage for Xfinity TV (and nascent SVOD platform Xfinity TV Streampix) against over-the-top services Netflix, Hulu and Amazon — an advantage that could pose future regulatory problems for Comcast regarding net neutrality.

Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based digital civil liberties group, said such an agreement between Comcast and Xbox 360 could threaten an “open Internet.”

“This type of arrangement is exactly the type of situation the Federal Communications Commission's 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,” Gigi Sohn, president and CEO of Public Knowledge, wrote in an email to Philly.com, which also reported the story.

Sohn found it interesting that the Xbox 360 offers numerous competing video services, yet only one service is not counted against the data cap — the one provided by Comcast.
“This is nothing less than a wake-up call to the commission to show it is serious about protecting the Open Internet. It also shows, once again, that the commission should take the first steps toward understanding data caps,” she wrote.

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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