Comcast Customers Skip Data Caps as Xbox Service Becomes Complaint Target in Net Neutrality Debate
Mar 27, 2012 (M2 PRESSWIRE via COMTEX) --
While Comcast announces its soon-to-be-released Xfinity On Demand service through Xbox 360 for residential customers, debate rages over whether the internet service provider may violate spirit of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guideline governing "Net Neutrality." Residential Comcast customers are currently capped at 250 GB data transfer per month, but the new Xbox service from the internet service provider will effectively bypass customer caps from the internet service provider. Use of Xbox On Demand service will not count against consumers or take away any those available gigs.
Comcast customers must subscribe to both TV and internet services to receive access to the Xbox service, with DSL service not an option through top box use. The provider claims to be working on an alternate for customers, that would allow them to drop the monthly internet service fees, but the company has not released any estimated timeline - should the change actually occur in the future.
Customers are speaking out while one very different social network is making it easy. Wacktrap (http://www.wacktrap.com ) is the website making complaints social for the very first time - allowing customers to easily share, search experiences, find resolutions to company problems, and even meet the people behind those experiences. "No one knows a company or its products more intimately, or resolutions and fixes," says Wacktrap.com co-founder, Suzanne Ziesche.
The data cap issue itself has remained under scrutiny since its institution only four years ago. Comcast began the data cap trend in 2008. A 250 monthly gigabyte cap means customers can be entirely cut off by Comcast over use the cable company deems excessive. In fact routinely blowing past the monthly cap can trigger customer termination for up to one year. It is a practice that has been facing scrutiny since its inception, particularly considering technology advancements and video streaming services like Netflix or Hulu services which translate to higher consumption rates or even requirements.
Just four years ago AT&T began an experiment that became a tale for two cities and consumers in two states. Customers in Reno, Nevada, became the first active participants in a 150 GB data cap test market created by AT&T in 2008. One year later the internet service provider chose Beaumont, Texas, customers to follow in those same, test-market footsteps. Some very unhappy cable company customers followed. Consumer complaints about the Beaumont and Reno efforts included claims that AT&T did not reveal testing duration for the newly-imposed caps, and concerns that AT&T customer service representatives themselves were not aware the test markets even existed in order to help customers. Angry customers emerged, to publicly lick wounds online after suffering one dollar-per-gigabyte overage fees. Then, in 2010, the program and related fees disappeared.
The AT&T internet service provider quietly scrapped its Nevada and Texas testing efforts early in 2010. The company's ditch of data cap experimentation saw some AT&T customers rejoicing while wary consumers speculated about the company's possible return to the practice. Months later, in 2011, AT&T capping did return. Customers in Texas and Nevada no longer needed to feel alone as AT&T had plans to change consumer consumption practices across the nation.
Despite recent consumer outrage over Beaumont and Reno data cap testing and related overage fees, the internet service provider introduced a bandwidth cap nationwide and to take effect simultaneously across all 50 states.
Data caps are poised as the next, big money-maker in internet access. If data caps do become the next cash cow, then combining caps with on-demand or premium services could prove the ultimate money-making combination for the online realm.
It was Comcast itself that started the practice of capping data, and it may be Comcast that changes the landscape once again in less than four years - as the first major player to both cap data while concurrently offering an additional, premium, paid service. Comcast claims its new Xfinity On Demand service meets full compliance with FCC rules since video content sent to customers via the XBox 360 will not be transmitted over "the public internet." The Xbox service is touted as a top box, not an "internet appliance," with data sent by Comcast over a private IP network. Those facts are supposed to inspire the idea that data caps are not, or should not be, applicable in arguments over whether the service is allowable by the FCC under its definition of "Net Neutrality." The FCC strives for an "open internet," the goal to treat "all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way." The new Xfinity On Demand service will allow Xbox data to essentially be perceived as free data, while streaming services of competitors or bandwidth transfer related to apps including Netflix and Hulu will continue to fall under the area imposed with a monthly Comcast cap.
"This is an interesting scenario: A company first insists a cap on data transfer is necessary, keeping information flowing - but the byproduct of limiting data transfer is obviously also going to limit potential use of competitor products. Then, if a company creates a new offering that can make customers feel like they're receiving back part of a lost freedom - even at a cost - it just might be enticing. Comcast has a policy where it can cancel customers who blow past its bandwidth limits, which is a real concern for consumers. Now Comcast offers a product that helps ensure customers can't blow past those limits, which is a real incentive for customers.
Logically, other services could even become irrelevant for Comcast customers using the new Xbox service," says Wacktrap.com co-founder Suzanne Ziesche.
"If consumers typically pay for Netflix streaming but aren't able to maximize use of a paid service because of imposed bandwidth limits, they may not want to pay for two entertainment services. Comcast's Xbox On-Demand will help consumers avoid hitting caps or even getting account terminations," says Ziesche. "At some point, consumers may logically view a service like Netflix as unnecessary, or choose to allocate funds normally used to pay streaming services toward premium offerings like the Xbox On-Demand." The Wacktrap website founders believe the rise of social media means customers no longer need to be caught in the middle or waiting for a company response that may never come. No one knows more about a company, its problems, or how to fix them, than its customers," says Wacktrap.com co-founder Shannon Miller. "There simply hasn't been the right space for sharing and effectively connecting people who can help each other find that fix." "As important as finally making complaints social, we're making complaints actually findable," says Miller. "That's never been done - and it's powerful." Members of the free social network are able to drill down to a narrow, specific brand and skip through thousands of categories quickly via dropdown. Customers with complaints related to Home Services can quickly locate other website users with similar or the same problems in seconds via the narrowed topic of Cable Companies, or even locate other customers related to a internet service provider brand and specific problem.
Contact: Wacktrap Website: wacktrap.com (http://www.wacktrap.com) Shannon Miller E-Mail: press [at] wacktrap [dot] com Tel: 323.988.7272 ###
((M2 Communications disclaims all liability for information provided within M2 PressWIRE. Data supplied by named party/parties. Further information on M2 PressWIRE can be obtained at http://www.presswire.net on the world wide web. Inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[ Back To TMCnet.com's Homepage ]