back to article Wow, what took you so long? Comcast bends net neutrality rules

Comcast has started bending the intent behind net neutrality rules with a new service, just as those rules are heading to a DC court this week. The telco giant has announced a "Stream TV" service that is available only to its Xfinity internet customers. It will cost $15 a month and it comprises a small group of TV channels …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    Not surprising....

    What with billions of dollars and thousands of lawyers in play.

    I hope that eventually Con-cast gets stomped on this one.

  2. Preston Munchensonton

    Loophole Schmoophole

    If Comcast is carving specific DOCSIS bands for these services, without running those channels across the public portions of their network, it really doesn't fall into the FCC rules for net neutrality, one way or the other. In other words, if you dismantled their Internet services, they would still have the power to make deals with content providers directly to present their content on their cable system.

    All cable and satellite companies already do this today with their negotiated content deals. Yet, if the method of transport somehow uses a public-facing, IP-based network, then somehow that shouldn't be permitted.

    I don't have any problem with the FCC trying to level the playing field for smaller players, i.e. to enforce rules that encourage competition. But nothing about net neutrality does that, one way or the other. If anything, it will end up shrinking the number of players in the market.


    1. qzdave

      Re: Loophole Schmoophole

      I'm not a tech, so I admit to not understanding the details. But is it not true that their network has finite bandwidth? As long as externally originated data are allowed down the pipe at the same speed that seems reasonable. Are they not trying an AOL play with a limited walled garden controlled and sold by them?

      1. Andrew Scott

        Re: Loophole Schmoophole

        Aol didn't control the wire to your house, that was the telephone company. You could always switch to a different internet provider. For many people, Comcast is the only way to connect to the internet other than going back to POTS.

        I use Comcast. Only way i can get high speed internet. I'm not interested in any Comcast only content. All the content I'm interested in comes from sources outside of Comcast. They only deliver the content I'm looking for.

    2. brainbone

      Re: Loophole Schmoophole

      "If Comcast is carving specific DOCSIS bands"

      They are not. They are simply zero-rating data delivered over the same DOCSIS bands used for all the other content you're receiving. It's all on the same IP network.

      What this does is allow Comcast to claw back cash they've been loosing from cord cutters. What will happen next is that Comcast will set bandwidth caps on their cheapest internet offering to the lowest amount (least amount of data) the market will bear. This will force price conscious customers to think about the data they're consuming -- limiting use of services like Netflix, Amazon prime video, etc., instead choosing to use Comcast's video offering because it doesn't count against their data.

      It's anti-competitive and NOT a very good thing for the consumer, nor does it bode well for the future of the internet as we've come to know it. What we want as consumers is cheap, plentiful, bandwidth. What Comcast has available is cheap, plentiful, bandwidth, and Comcast doesn't like that -- they want to artificially increase the value of that bandwidth by making it appear like a scarce commodity.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Loophole Schmoophole


        I agree 100% with everything in your post.

        BUT, while it is indeed "anti-competitive" and thoroughly "not a very good thing for the consumer", the question is: does it fall foul of net neutrality?

        They are using their (effective) monopoly to essentially offer a better price rather than a better service.

        1. Mark 85

          Re: Loophole Schmoophole


          There's always a catch.. does it fall foul of "net neutrality"..? I guess it depends on who's interpreting the things. The end result is that at some point, Comcast will have a lock on a certain share of the market and any competitor or any company such as Netflix that doesn't play along (or pay along) is doomed.

          The better price part won't last long either given the nature of monopolies. Once they get the stranglehold, every customer will pay what they demand.

          1. dan1980

            Re: Loophole Schmoophole


            "I guess it depends on who's interpreting the things."

            The answer to that is simple: the FCC. And the reason is that the Supreme Court has ruled that the FCC, as the agency tasked with enforcement of the statute (The Telecommunications Act), has the authority to interpret it.

            I can't say how the FCC will decide this particular situation but their own interpretation of what applying Title II to the "broadband Internet access" portion of ISPs' offerings means is: no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritisation; the last of which the FCC clarifies as "no fast lanes".

            I can see Comcast's practices as something that could very well make things worse for customers as a whole but I can't see that they actually run counter to what the FCC has explained their decisions to mean. I would suggest that if the FCC does mean to prohibit such practices then it's probably time - past time - for them to petition congress to re-write the Act.

    3. Uncle Ron

      Re: Loophole Schmoophole

      Cable TV systems in the US operate under license from the FCC to "cross FCC boundaries" with their cable, regardless of which "DOCSIS" channel they exploit, with whatever protocol they choose, to get whatever service they concoct to deliver to consumers. They don't have a "private network." All of it is subject to FCC regulation. They get a MONOPOLY in return for being regulated. They can't use that monopoly to gain further advantage over potential competitors. If the courts don't rule as such, then the courts, as well as the Congress and the FCC, have been corrupted.

      And further, if the policy of Metered Billing or Usage Based Billing, or Data Capping, or whatever you choose to call it, is allowed to prevail, it will be one of the biggest consumer rip-offs, if not -the- biggest, in US regulatory history. It is unprecedented, unjustified price gouging, and an actual -disincentive- to the monopolies to -ever- improve their systems. It cannot be allowed.

  3. dan1980

    There are two things here that are entirely separate: bandwidth and data allowance.

    If a provider is prioritising their services when it comes to available bandwidth then that's a problem because it is directly against the idea of being neutral in terms of what data (and from whom) is being carried.

    If, however, a provider decides to make certain services available without being counted towards a monthly download quota then that is very different and should not fall foul of any neutrality requirements.

    Yes, it may have the effect of making their in-house offering more attracting than a third-party offering but what's wrong with that? Neutrality doesn't mean you can't try to make your service more attractive, only that you can't do so by prioritising traffic related to that service (or to any other service). What they are effectively doing here is offering a discount on their service and can't see how that is problematic from a neutrality stand point.

    It can be problematic from a competition standpoint but that is simply because these companies are often, effectively monopolies so you need to actually look at that problem - by doing things like encouraging areas to build their own networks rather than trying to ban them.

    1. dan1980

      As a follow-up, think of package deals, as the author mentions.

      What if Comcast had the following offerings:

      • Internet access with 300GB allowance: $60/mo
      • Internet access with 500GB allowance: $90/mo
      • Internet access + TV service with 500GB allowance: $90/mo

      Is there anything wrong with that so far as neutrality is concerned? I've just used some rough prices but clearly what they would be doing there is offering a free 200GB/mo upgrade if you purchase the add-on TV service. Why shouldn't they be able to offer extras in a bundle? how is that any different than what the author explains they all do now with normal cable TV services?

      As long as they aren't making their services available FASTER than others, the experience that users will have is the same so the question is one of whether they will go for a cheaper package deal from one provider or spend more but be able to pick each service from whichever provider they want.

      I did that the other day when I bought a new suit - the store offered to throw in a new shirt and tie for $80 but I preferred some shirts I saw in another shop so I bought a shirt from there for ~$100 and a tie from another store for $50.

      The last place I bought a guitar from does a full setup for free when you buy with them - something that costs ~$100 otherwise and he could do that because they offer both those services - guitar sales and guitar setups - in the one place so they can bundle them up as a differentiator.

      Perhaps a better analogy would be holiday package deals where you have to fly a specific airline, stay in a specific hotel and go on a specific tour and then a specific cruise and then another specific flight and another specific hotel and so on.

      My point is that we accept the mechanics of package deals everywhere and no one baulks at this because it seems perfectly normal that companies should 'sweeten the deal' in an attempt to entice you to spend more money with them. In fact, we expect it and some people will negotiate with retailers or sales people by asking for a discount if they buy more - something I did when I bought my last TV. I said to the sales chap: I'm also looking for a new Blu-Ray player, a set-top box for a second PC and some headphones: what can you do? Ended up essentially getting the headphones for free as the total cost was less than the TV + the two boxes would have been separately, though they didn't stock the brand I originally wanted so I had to settle for a different pair.

      It's important that neither the headphones nor the Blu-Ray player or STB worked any better because I bought them from the one provider - it was just cheaper that way. And, in getting that cheaper price, I accepted that I could have bought EXACTLY what I wanted had I bought the components separately but I chose to settle for something else because the price was good.

      I fully appreciate that the monopoly-like situation they are in means that these practices can have an big impact on competition but that's they whole point of a monopoly so if the Government doesn't want the effects of a monopoly, then they should work to break those monopolies instead of allowing mergers and buy-outs so that the people are left with a choice of Comcast or Comcast.

    2. dan1980

      While it seems not to matter to folks who read here, All I am saying is that the effect of applying Title II to ISPs is that they cannot prioritise or discriminate in their transmission of traffic.

      The most important thing to note is that ISPs are not being classified directly as common carriers because it has always been accepted that they most definitely provide "information services". The question around 'Net Neutrality' was whether the part of their service that involved transmitting bits from on place to another should be considered separately from their other services and classified as a "telecommunications service", such that ISP offer two services: telecommunications services and information services.

      So, the non-discrimination requirement only applies to the TRANSMISSION of bits back and forward along the communication medium, not how they decide to count the "information services" - which their streaming TV service mostly definitely is - they provide over the top.

      Of course I am not a lawyer and one problem with the Act is that it is a bit too vague - which is why the whole 'are they or aren't they' debate was possible in the first place.

      This vagueness means that, as per Chevron (which I have mentioned before,) the FCC has the authority - confirmed by the Supreme Court - to interpret the Act in their role as the government agency created by that same Act for the purpose of enforcing it. That's the whole 'Net Neutrality' issue in a nutshell: the FCC interpreted it one way (classifying ISPs solely as "information service" providers") to start with and then decided that, as the nature of these providers had changed over time, they should re-interpret and re-classify (differentiating between the various services offered and classifying them separately).

      The FCC then, really, are the arbiters of what the legislation means so it is important to understand what they have decided. Specifically, it's worth noting that the part that they have decided is a "telecommunications service" is what they refer to as "broadband Internet access". (My emphasis.)

      Even more important is to note the FCC's explanation of what, exactly, their interpretation of the Act precludes ISP's from doing. They call these rules their "three bright lines":

      • No blocking (of lawful content)
      • No throttling
      • No paid prioritization

      Clearly the first two are easy and Comcast cannot be said to be breaking these - no matter how much one hates them. So, it must be the third so let's, again, look at exactly what how the FCC view their rule against "paid prioritization" and the language they use is: "no fast lanes".

      At no point do they talk about how data consumption must be counted, let alone specifically prohibit providers from deciding not to charge for a given volume of data linked to a certain service.

      So you can argue that the behaviour Comcast are engaging in is anti-competitive and you can argue that Comcast are an evil company that actively seeks to squeeze money out of customers however they can. And many would agree.

      But, if you want to argue that their new practice of not counting data from their own services falls foul of the law as it is and the interpretation of that law as the FCC have publicly stated - not as you think it should be or as you think it should be interpreted - then I'd like to see how you reach that conclusion.

      Because what I am saying and that people seem to knee-jerk reaching for the downvote icon is simply that what Comcast is doing should not breach the decision of the FCC that ISPs cannot BLOCK, THROTTLE or PRIORITIZE.

      Far too often in these forums it seems that people confuse disliking a companies practices with those practices being illegal or, on the opposite side, confuse an analysis of the legality of those practices with support for them.

      1. Terry Barnes

        " they cannot prioritise or discriminate in their transmission of traffic."

        Their transmission of *internet* traffic. There's nothing to stop an ISP offering me a non public VPN service to a content server hosted on a private network. That VPN can co-exist on my last mile access service alongisde my public Internet service that I buy from the same ISP.

        All that the net neutrality rules will achieve is the movement of high-value services to networks that aren't the public Internet and new products that allow consumers and content providers to access those things.

    3. Uncle Ron

      You said, " it may have the effect of making their in-house offering more attracting than a third-party offering but what's wrong with that?"

      What is wrong with that is that the monopolies were never granted for these companies to be in the content business in the first place. The monopolies were granted to spur investment in something that would be inefficient or impossible to get multiple companies to duplicate: Laying coaxial cable all over the place. For these monopolies to now be allowed to compete with non-cable companies--non-monopolists--using their ownership of the monopoly cable as a competitive advantage is outrageous and wrong on it's face. The monopoly cable companies (and to a similar extent, AT&T) have been allowed to encroach and expand into businesses they should have never been allowed to be in. It needs to stop. Comcast shouldn't own NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Telemundo, Comcast Sports Network, Universal Studios, and the rest. They shouldn't be allowed to put up a movies service that competes with Netflix, but doesn't count toward your data cap--IT'S WRONG.

      1. dan1980

        @Uncle Ron

        First, what I meant and have repeated through all my posts is "from a net neutrality stand point".

        Second, these companies were never "granted" monopolies - as though this was some special privilege that the government bestows upon worthy candidates; they became that because the government simply didn't stop them.

        And AGAIN, regardless of whether this move is good or bad, I can't see how it falls foul of the interpretations of the FCC. "It'll be bad for the consumer" AKA "Comcast is a big meanie" does not change anything in that regard.

        12 downvotes (and likely counting) for my posts laying this out and not one of those people has provided anything in response beyond "I don't like what they're doing" - not one explanation of why my analysis is incorrect.

        Your whole argument is: "they shouldn't be allowed" to do this, and I am not saying that I disagree with you, but on what basis does "IT'S WRONG" qualify as a reason why their behaviour breaches the regulations as they have been explained by the FCC?.

        Is Comcast "blocking" legal traffic? Are they "throttling" it traffic? Are they creating "fast lanes"?

        Because these are the FCC's own explanation of what ISP's are not allowed to do.

        I thank you for actually replying because I am constantly amazed at the way supposedly intelligent people just madly click a button but don't have the decency to actually explain why.

        Your position that Comcast "shouldn't" own content services is well and good and I even agree that these should be legally distinct such as happened with Telstra being split to wholesale and retail in Australia. But, Comcast DOES own NBC, they DO own Universal Studios and the ARE ALLOWED to "put up a movie service that competes with Netflix". That's the reality and the question that must be argued right now is whether their practices are counter to the FCC's rulings.

        If they are NOT, and I believe they aren't, then the discussion can turn to the concerns you put forward, which are not concerns based on existing regulation but instead your own view on what the regulation should be. And that's fair enough but doesn't impact this case right now.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    That's the point

    > it may have the effect of making their in-house offering more attracting than a third-party offering

    I pay my ISP to deliver bytes in a timely fashion. Getting charged differently for bytes from different sources is wrong.

    This is little different from being, in effect, charged extra for watching YouTube instead of whatever Comcast service.

    1. tjdennis2

      Re: That's the point

      > I pay my ISP to deliver bytes in a timely fashion. Getting charged differently for bytes from different sources is wrong.

      Think of it this way. The ISP has a connection to the Internet and must pay for that access by the amount transferred. They are counting your bytes at "their" connection to the internet. Every byte that comes from your modem and reaches to the Internet costs them money that they must charge you for.

      But anything that originates and stays within their own network and does not go over the internet is not costing them anything so they have nothing to pass on to you for charges. As long as the content they are giving you has not come from the Internet in any way, they shouldn't count it towards your data cap. That would be charging you for Internet access you never used.

      If they're just trying to cache Netflix or YouTube data, then that would be from the Internet and they should not be able to give you any special deals.

      Of course, in reality, how they make your modem know the difference between the two types of traffic is beyond me. I'm fairly certain they get their byte count from the modem.

      1. Uncle Ron

        Re: That's the point

        "I'm fairly certain" you're wrong about what you think you're right about, as well as what is beyond you. The monopoly cable company doesn't have to be anywhere near your cable modem to know what your "byte count" is. Only the consumer doesn't know. A single IP address is assigned to your cable modem and linked to your bill at any single time. Believe me, they know -exactly- what your "byte count" is and where those bytes came from.

        Also, multiple credible studies, done around the world, have shown repeatedly that the incremental cost, to the cable company, of delivering that "next byte," over and above some phony "data cap" or "usage cap" --that incremental cost--is almost nothing--nearly unmeasurable. These studies have shown that whatever they charge you is very nearly, almost entirely, pure profit. Further, such billing plans are actually a -disincentive- to the company to -ever- improve it's system or services or technology. Just create artificial scarcity and charge more.

        That's what's wrong with our current setup.

      2. Dadmin

        Re: That's the point

        But it gets even better, my friend. When you host a giant Internet pipe for a mass of users, what's to stop you from caching a shit-ton of data and double, triple, etc. billing on that same data being redelivered to your "customers", even though you did not have to fetch it from the real Internet again? Sounds like a good idea for a proxy and content cache, or a misuse of your services and fraudulent billing of cached data as fresh data?

        1. dan1980

          Re: That's the point


          You have made the most salient point yet: "what's to stop [them]"?

          The answer is: not the current regulations as explained by the FCC. If such behaviour is to be prohibited then new laws need to be made that are far more explicit and clear because one crucial fact seems to be overlooked which is that the 'net neutrality' rulings have not changed the plain language of the statute. All they are is a decision by the FCC on how they will breakdown the services of ISPs, how they will classify those services and what their interpretation is of what that all means.

          The law - the Act - is unchanged so if clarity and strong regulation is desired, it has to come from Congress in the form of an updated Act.

        2. david wilson

          Re: That's the point

          >>"When you host a giant Internet pipe for a mass of users, what's to stop you from caching a shit-ton of data and double, triple, etc. billing on that same data being redelivered to your "customers", even though you did not have to fetch it from the real Internet again?"

          What on Earth *should* be stopping anyone doing that if it made economic sense?

          Customers aren't paying ISPs for data freshly delivered from the Internet just for them, and them alone.

          Customers are just paying ISPs for data.

          If ISPs can save money overall by investing in caching technology, why the hell shouldn't they, as long as there's no meaningful performance downside?

          It's not even as if customers are typically charged by the byte anyway, and when people aren't being directly billed for data usage, then isn't any double or triple billing happening.

          To the extent the company could save anything, that's only going to be by saving money from their connection to the internet (or, by more local caching, to save money by reducing internal bandwidth needs in their own network)

          Of course, for them to be able to save anything in either of those places rather requires that the cost of 'extra' data even between the real Internet and somewhere internal in their own network isn't 'the almost nothing' you suggest it is.

    2. dan1980

      Re: That's the point

      @Gene Cash

      But if you purchased multiple services from your ISP, would you expect them to offer a discount? I think most people would and that's why bundles and package deals exist.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Makes me feel a little better

    Whenever I get frustrated and annoyed by the many and various failings of the UK internet access market, I like to read one of these articles about the US situation. However shite Openreach/Virgin/Sky et al may be, their behaviour seems positively benevolent compared to the aggressive customer raping apparently perpetrated by US ISPs.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its all going to get more complicated

    It is going to be a lot harder to distinguish this type of offering in a few years when cable companies cease using QAM channels for video and go all IP delivery (i.e. every customer will have a cable modem, even customers who don't subscribe to them for internet) Maybe Comcast is hoping to get a test case going now so they're ready for this future that will be enabled by DOCSIS 3.1.

    If Comcast today made a deal with Netflix to have a Netflix channel you could tune to and watch Netflix content, that also gives you access to Netflix's VOD content library how different is that really from their deal with HBO today that gives you access to multiple HBO channels and HBO VOD content through your cable box (i.e. without internet service) When everything is IP there will really be no difference at all, so for better or for worse this part of net neutrality just won't be able to be enforced in any realistic way before long.

    1. Uncle Ron

      Re: Its all going to get more complicated

      Everything a cable system delivers today is digital. QAM is digital, IP is digital. It's all the same, just different protocol. It should no longer be distinguished by anybody. It shouldn't be "usage billed" or be considered a "private network." None of the "networks" a monopoly cable system uses are "private." They are all delivered by the regulated monopoly cable.

      Cell phone and other wireless carriers are a horse of a different ass altogether.

  7. Terry Barnes

    Net neutrality will just result in redefinition of what 'The Internet' means.

    What's happening here is what I predicted, that the ISP is redefining the last mile as an IP data access product, which can carry traffic from the public Internet and traffic from the ISP's own private IP network. The activists have won the battle but lost the war - the Internet will be neutral, however that's defined, but the extra value traffic will simply arrive from overlay networks that aren't the Internet.

    It turns consumer broadband into a product more like corporate network access products - I might buy a 10GB access line today into my telco's facility and divide that up into portions for running my corporate IP VPN using MPLS, some RTP/SIP for my PBX and some public Internet access.

    Unless someone decides that it will be illegal to sell private IP networking to individuals this is inevitable.

    1. Uncle Ron

      There is no "private IP network." It is all delivered by the monopoly cable, a monopoly granted by "the government" (read: us) in order to get the monopolies to invest in something that might not have been built competitively. In other words, 2 or 3 companies would never have invested to duplicate digging trenches and laying cable. That's -all- they were chartered to do. Not to have "private networks" or to own sports networks, or movie studios, and then to have a delivery and pricing advantage over non-monopoly competitors. We have to begin to act and regulate and legislate on this basis.

      1. dan1980

        @Uncle Ron


        I get what you're saying but the implication is that government gave some kind of express permissions for these companies to become monopolies.

        I agree that they are - in effect - monopolies and I thoroughly agree that this has resulted in poor services for the majority of people. Look at any post of mine from any of the previous 'net neutrality' articles and you will see that pretty clearly.

        But that does not mean that the government "granted" them their monopolies, which would amount to what is known as a LEGAL monopoly. This is just not the case. And yes, I understand the idea of franchise fees but these are local and they do not establish legal monopolies.

        The end result is a de facto monopoly but that is a different thing. It's a subtle difference from a consumer point of view and I thoroughly believe that in the case of telecommunications providers it is a terrible thing for the consumer, but the point is that it is NOT a legal monopoly "granted" by the government.

        The problem for consumers, however, is that it doesn't really matter how the monopoly came about - the effect is largely the same. That's why it's called a 'de facto monopoly' - because that's what 'de facto' means: something that exists and is a fact but was not actually established or authorised by a law. Just like a de facto relationship, which is in effect just like a marriage (religious concerns aside) but not established by law, which marriages are (hence the registering part).

        So, while the government has not expressly authorised and "chartered" these companies to setup monopolies, they have in effect allowed them to become that. The FCC is a key reason that this has been allowed to happen due to its original decision to classify cable broadband providers solely as "information services providers". The technical justification (which I don't agree with) was that the "information services" they provide are deeply entwined with the communications services that those communications service in effect become something different that no longer can be classified as such. The reason for making this decision - or at least their publicly-stated reason - was to encourage competition because they thought that regulating them under Title II would stifle innovation and investment.

        One almost has to laugh at their naïveté but of course the US government has a history of being very friendly to monopolistic interests, which leads them to de-regulate and thus allow for the creation of these de facto monopolies. Indeed de-regulation was a specific, stated goal of the 1996 amendment! (And that was the Clinton government so it's certainly not a one-sided thing.)

        Personally, I think that the Telecommunication Act needs to be amended again to fully and explicitly address the unique position of cable internet providers and set up a strong regulatory framework on the transmission network. Without suggesting that it would be an easy sell or easy to actually implement, I would say that they should be actually split as Telstra was in Australia - wholesale and retail.

        The effect would be that Comcast could continue to offer what they are proposing - quota-free TV service with their Internet plans. BUT, that service would be run over the cable of a separate company - Comcast Telecommunications or whatever - that was legally required to sell access to that transmission medium on a completely non-discriminatory basis.

        I.e. If the wholesale provider charges the retail provider (Xfinity or whatever) $x per Gb then it must alos offer that price to every other retail provider. Thus, those other providers can offer a similar service if they want without being charged more for the use of the line itself.

        But that is NOT the way it is current set out. The hope, of course, is that this case may prompt such a change when it is realised that until such regulation is in place, the ISPs will continue to do whatever they can to achieve thier monopolistic ends.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I'm pretty sure there are private networks. My corporate WAN depends on them existing. In a lot of US locations the most cost effective last mile provider for my private IP network is the cable company. You can't pretend that something doesn't exist in order to make your argument and you also can't ban services that businesses have been buying and using for years because you find their existence distasteful. Are you suggesting that private lines and MPLS and Ethernet VPNs should be outlawed or that telcos should be allowed to sell only one product - consumer internet access?

  8. Public Citizen

    If it walks like a Duck, etc.......

    Easy way to determine if it violates the rules is to determine if it uses any of the same transmission medium [ fibre, wire, microwave, etc.] and if by doing so it in any way impacts the efficiency or bandwidth of that transmission medium.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If it walks like a Duck, etc.......

      Not quite. The fibre+coax lines have enough capacity for cable TV, internet, and primo streaming. As long as the ISP delivers the internet bandwidth that customers pay for, it's in the clear.

      Knowing Comcast, of course, the fine print might only guarantee full bandwidth 90% of the time - ie. everytime but primetime.

    2. Uncle Ron

      Re: If it walks like a Duck, etc.......

      It doesn't have to "impact the efficiency" of anything in order to break the rules. The monopoly cable systems cannot unfairly advantage their own content vs. competitive offerings. That's not why the monopolies were granted. The monopolies were granted to lay cable--nothing else. To use the ownership of the cable to price-gouge consumers, unfairly profit, or disadvantage non-monopoly competitors is wrong and must be stopped. If it isn't stopped, we will be paying more and more for less and less, our technology will degrade, and will clearly prove that our system is corrupt.

      1. dan1980

        Re: If it walks like a Duck, etc.......

        @Uncle Ron

        See my very long-winded post above but the monopolies were not "granted". FRANCHISES were granted to lay cable but those are NOT monopolies. It may be a subtle point and it may look the same to the consumer but legally this is distinct and, when we're talking about regulations and court challenges, such distinctions matter a lot.

        Yes, you will pay more - that's what almost invariably happens when monopolies form - but that does not mean such behaviour automatically breaches the regulations in place as interpreted and applied by the FCC.

        Which is why the statute (the Telecommunications Act) needs to be amended so this isn't just up to interpretations that come down to a 3-2 vote. It should be clear EXACTLY what is required of the providers and EXACTLY what is prohibited. Until that happens, they will continue to find ways to wring as much money out of everyone as they can.

        Hell, they'll do that regardless but the point is that the law needs to set stricter limits on what they "can" do to get that money.

  9. Unicornpiss

    A matter of semantics?

    Not to take Comcast's side, but how is this any different than a cell service provider not charging usage for calls to their own helpline for billing, etc. questions? If the content is originating from Comcast's own servers, and they are providing the service to deliver it, I don't see a conflict.

    If, however, they are providing 'free' bandwidth for services outside of their network, where the traffic is going across equipment not owned by them to provide preferential treatment to a bunch of their toadying "partners", then IMHO we have a problem.

    One thing for sure, ANY cable company or ISP is going to grift every last dime they can from you in whatever way they can, even if it's rather oblique.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A matter of semantics?

      If I have read the above correctly

      The granted monopoly and utility of it.

      Your phone company has competition. More importantly it did not receive a granted protection and monopoly in return for the installation of a utility.

      So it would be like the road company purchasing Wallmart on the sly. Then suddenly charging extra to allow Amazon parcels and providing free passage of Wallmart parcels.

      If it was the road put outside your house, the sudden price hike in an unrelated product may be somewhat unfair.

      1. dan1980

        Re: A matter of semantics?


        ". . . it did not receive a granted protection and monopoly . . ."

        Neither did the ISPs.

        They are DE FACTO monopolies - this is most definitely true and leads to bad outcomes for consumers. But they are not LEGAL monopolies, which is what you are claiming they are.

        That's just not correct.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When there's a big football game or something, Comcast internet slows down. Sometimes (less lately, in fairness) it makes competing services like Netflix unusable. If the service causing the slowdown is independent, it's network congestion. But if it's a Comcast service, it's bending net neutrality.

    If Comcast bends too hard, it makes other options - like torrents and municipal broadband - too attractive.

    The T-mobile case sounds like an outright violation of neutrality. Their sorry excuse for a data network can't handle streaming in my experience or that of many many other customers. Assuming their infrastructure is maxed out, their primo streaming service can only work if it takes a huge chunk out of open-internet bandwidth. But I doubt it'll work and anyone who subscribes to it will cancel quickly and switch carriers too if possible.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You don't understand

    In the U.S. unscrupulous businesses do whatever they desire and pay a small financial penalty when and if the FTC or FCC decide that the public is so incensed over the illegal business practice that the government flunkies must put up a ruse to keep from losing their plush chairmanship paid holiday complete with platinum health care and parachute. As such if enough people voice their outrage to the FTC/FCC eventually criminal corporations like Comcast who illegally globally block legitimate international e-mail sent to U.S. Comcast subscribers causing millions of dollars in damages and tens of millions in consumer fraud, the perps will receive a slap on the risk fine. As Microsucks, InHell and many other criminal corporations have learned crime pays damn well when you're allowed to reap Billions annually and then after 5-10 years of this illegal activity, you are only forced to pay a fine of 5 or 10 million Euro. What criminal entity would not agree to this type of exploitation and crime?

  12. Boothy

    Doesn't Sky do this?

    Doesn't Sky do this in the UK?

    Last time I looked, if you have their Broadband, anything you stream or download to your Sky box, isn't counted against your usage allowance.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't Sky do this?

      I think it's down to monopoly though. Sky has competition in BT, Talktalk and some areas Virgin Media.

      So they are all providing TV+internet etc. However in the US, only one company can provide the phone/internet. Now that one company can send it's goons... I mean network management team around and "it would be unfortunate if your Netflix stopped working, oh with a small fee it will be all better" the customers a bit around the head.

  13. Aedile

    The problem with zero rating is it essentially does the same thing as throttling.

    Let's make up an extreme example:

    I offer a plan where you get 1 MB before I start charging $500 per MB.

    I offer my streaming video plan for $5 and it doesn't cost against your data cap

    Are you going to stream from Netflix or Hulu?

    Now that will get people to use my service but what if I don't want to just get that measly $5 from customers. What if I want the big bucks? Well then I tell Netflix give me $5 million and I won't count your data against the cap. If they do pay are you then going to stream from Hulu or Netflix? Eventually I could charge $5 for the customer to access the zero rating package that includes Netflix and whomever else paid me. Oh look. Now I'm being paid $5 by the customer AND $5M from Netflix et al. How sweet it is to be a monopoly!

    The whole point of net neutrality was to prevent the ISPs from picking losers and winners on the net. Zero rating is a way of getting money out of other businesses by threatening to cripple those who don't pay up. They can set any arbitrary bar for companies to be zero rated. Want zero rating? Send us $5M, a picture of your CEO wearing a funny hat, and a short essay telling us how awesome we are. If you don't our customers will find they have to pay $500/MB to access your service while your competition is "free".

  14. Stevie


    The sooner the Space Aliens from Planet Pluto arrive to dispense free subspace-net service to the waiting masses the better. That'll show these so-called "service" providers.

    Assuming the Space Aliens from Planet Pluto are not too pissed at Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the other members of Project Relabel Things Instead Of Doing Proper Science, and decide to go with the Death-Ray Everyone On Sight plan instead.

  15. joed

    do not feed the troll

    save that 15$ for better things

  16. andersenep

    Kill the oligopoly on broadband service (local loop unbundling), and we won't need net neutrality rules or legislation. I have 1 choice for a cable provider in my area and this is the norm in the US. So I am stuck paying $80/mo for 10mbps DSL.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    data caps

    once again i must be missing something. does comcast have data caps? i've heard rumors of 300 gb but thought the caps were never implemented.

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