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May 07, 2012

Sen Al Franken: Is Comcast Violating Net Neutrality with Xbox Streaming?

By Michelle Amodio, TMCnet Contributor

Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken is putting Comcast under scrutiny, saying that the cable conglomerate is violating Net neutrality (News - Alert) rules by excepting its own video service from usage caps on its own network.

Specifically, content that is streamed directly to Xbox consoles of subscribers will not be counted against its monthly data allotment of 250GB, an action the Senator wants investigated by the FCC (News - Alert).

Such practices have other providers like Netflix fuming, as well as other public interest groups who say that this gives unfair predilection over the competition.

"I was very dismayed to hear that Sony recently announced that it is reconsidering launching an Internet TV service because it is concerned that Comcast (News - Alert) will impose data caps on its competitors' programming," Franken wrote in a letter to the two agencies. "The conditions your agencies adopted were designed to foster innovation and encourage competitors like Sony to enter the online video market. If Comcast is able to impose restrictive data caps to the detriment of its competitors, I fear other companies like Sony will choose not to compete with Comcast."

The situation is, of course, a little fuzzy. Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s vice president of government communications, countered that it is not in violation of Net neutrality rules since the service doesn't go over the public Internet.

Franken’s argument is backed up by a recent dispute with Bloomberg (News - Alert) TV. The FCC ruled recently that Bloomberg, which sought locations on the dial close to those of major cable networks like MSNBC, Fox News and CNN, must be given more desirable locations.

Comcast has said it will appeal.

Franken reproached the FCC for taking 10 months to rule for Bloomberg. The FCC ruled last week that Bloomberg must be given more desirable locations and Comcast agreed.

"Such a delay is unacceptable if the merger conditions are to be effectively enforced," he said.

Comcast remains its actions are legit since everything is delivered over its own private IP network.  

Franken concurs that it may be legally in the right. However, he's urging the FCC to examine the situation, saying that it raises serious questions about how Comcast will favor its own content.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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