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Comcast Hit With FCC Complaint Over Net Neutrality Violations

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When broadband providers exempt their own services from their data caps, is that a public good or a public harm?

Non-profit public interest group Public Knowledge has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding Comcast's Stream TV service. The complaint says that Comcast excludes Stream TV traffic from its own data cap, which is both a violation of its merger agreement and counter to the FCC's Open Internet rules.

Stream TV is a $15 per month offering for Xfinity internet customers. It includes local channels, some basic cable, HBO, and the use of a cloud DVR. Most content is only available when streamed over the home network.

Public Knowledge's senior staff attorney, John Bergmayer, points out that part of Comcast's merger commitment when it acquired NBC-Universal was a prohibition from excluding its own services from data caps.

The behavior also violates the FCC's Open Internet rules, Bergmayer says, which were created to prevent anti-competitive practices.

“Comcast's actions could result in fewer online video choices for viewers nationwide, while increasing its dominance as a video gatekeeper," Bergmayer says. "If its behavior persists, prices will go up, the number of choices will go down, creators will have a harder time reaching an audience, and viewers will have a harder time accessing diverse and independent programming."

Comcast's response is that Stream TV doesn't go over the internet, but is delivered over the same closed path as its cable streams, and so is exempt from the rules. It calls Stream TV a cable service, not an OTT service.

In its complaint, Public Knowledge asks the FCC to intervene and stop Comcast's actions. It suggests that Comcast could eliminate its broadband data cap or let customer decide which services to exempt. Read the full complaint.

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