Most Read: Business

 Last Update: : AM 04/26/2015(NASDAQ&DJIA)

World Markets from      


Other Market Data from      


Key Rates from      


Blog Contributors

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

Brian Fung

Brian Fung

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on electronic privacy, national security, digital politics and the Internet that binds it all together. He was previously the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic. His writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, Talking Points Memo, the American Prospect and Nonprofit Quarterly. Follow Brian on Google+ .

Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

Post Tech
About / Where's Post I.T.?   |    Twitter  |   On Facebook  |  RSS RSS Feed  |  E-Mail Cecilia
Posted at 12:31 PM ET, 05/07/2012

Al Franken questions Comcast XBox streaming as net neutrality violation

Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts speaks at his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada in this Jan. 8, 2008 file photo. (Rick Wilking - Reuters)
Pressure is mounting on Comcast, with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) joining critics who say the cable giant’s streaming video service over the XBox console may violate open Internet access rules.

The controversy surrounds Comcast’s launch last March of its Xfinity video streaming service over Microsoft’s XBox. The streaming service won’t count against consumers’ 250 gigabyte monthly data cap, which has sparked the ire of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and public interest groups who say the practice gives unfair preference to its own service over competitors.

It’s unclear if the service is a violation of net neutrality rules since it doesn’t appear that videos streamed on the Xfinity service travel over the public Internet. The Federal Communications Commission granted approval to Comcast’s joint venture with NBC Universal in late 2010 with the condition that the company abide by “net neutrality” rules that would prohibit any favoritism of some content over others.

“When the Obama administration signed off on Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal, it laid out a set of rules to prevent Comcast from squashing its competitors — including popular cable alternatives — and hurting consumers who have seen rapidly rising cable rates over the last several years,” Franken said in a statement.

He called for the FCC and the Justice Department to investigate the allegations and impose “significant penalties” if violations are found.

Comcast refuted allegations it broke promises on net neutrality. It said that its On Demand service, which is being used for its XBox streaming video service, is subject to cable, not Internet rules.

“When Comcast streams its own services over the open Internet (including or, such streaming is subject to Comcast’s broadband Internet data usage standards,” Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in an e-mailed statement. “But the Xfinity app for the X-Box does not stream content over the open Internet and is also part of our Title VI cable service. As such, it is not subject to the FCC’s open internet rules.”

The FCC and Justice Department declined to comment on whether they would take up reviews of the matter.

“The Commission takes seriously its strong and fair merger conditions that protect competition and consumers,” said FCC spokesman Neil Grace.

Bandwidth constraints on wireline and wireless networks have become a flashpoint for policy battles between carriers and tech firms, who are trying to get as much attention to their services from consumers faced with potentially higher bills. Carriers, meanwhile, argue they need to impose caps because of the gluttonous appetite of consumers for Internet data.

Netflix’s Hastings wrote on a Facebook post last March that Comcast’s practices on the XBox appeared to harm competition. Netflix users are among the biggest data consumers in peak hours on wireline networks.

“Comcast (is) no longer following net neutrality principles,” he wrote. “Comcast should apply caps equally, or not at all.”


FCC delays Verizon-cable spectrum deal

Grassley to lift hold on FCC nominees caught in LightSquared spat

Online options raise questions about future of free TV

By  |  12:31 PM ET, 05/07/2012

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company