Imagine you own a trucking company. You also own all the highways that make up your company’s shipping routes. You decide to levy a tax on all the vehicles that use your highways – all the vehicles, that is, except those that belong to your trucking company.
Is that fair? Absolutely not. But that’s exactly what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is accusing Comcast of doing. Hastings took to his public Facebook account to call Comcast out for breaking net neutrality through its data cap policy on the Xbox 360 Xfinity app. Hastings’ post reads:
Comcast no longer following net neutrality principles.
Comcast should apply caps equally, or not at all.
I spent the weekend enjoying four good internet video apps on my Xbox: Netflix, HBO GO, Xfinity, and Hulu.
When I watch video on my Xbox from three of these four apps, it counts against my Comcast internet cap. When I watch through Comcast’s Xfinity app, however, it does not count against my Comcast internet cap.
For example, if I watch last night’s SNL episode on my Xbox through the Hulu app, it eats up about one gigabyte of my cap, but if I watch that same episode through the Xfinity Xbox app, it doesn’t use up my cap at all.
The same device, the same IP address, the same wifi, the same internet connection, but totally different cap treatment.
In what way is this neutral?
The simple answer is: it’s not. Though all four services offer the same content, they are clearly not treated equally. Using Xfinity does not use up an account’s data allowance, while watching the same content through other services does. Xfinity has a clear advantage, encouraging subscribers to use that service over the competitors and breaking net neutrality.
The Xfinity app received immediate criticism for this exact reason when it launched late last month, and the only defense Comcast offered was that the service is delivered over its private IP network, rather the public Internet. Hastings’ complaint has attracted the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which says it is monitoring the situation. There is still a question of whether it violates actual net neutrality rules, but either way, it’s the principle that matters most here.
Want to take action? There’s a petition on PublikDemand asking Comcast to make a choice: apply data caps equally or stop using them altogether.