While using a number of stream-related apps recently, Netflix CEO noticed something about Comcast's application of their much-maligned Internet data usage caps--they, according to Hastings, weren't being applied equally. And so, he posted about it on Facebook, taking his beef with Comcast to the masses. By airing his grievance in such a public forum, Hastings accomplished a few things.
First, his complaint has become a national story, and second, it shines the light on not only how silly the idea of a data usage cap is, it also shows that apparently, Comcast doesn't apply their needless caps with any kind of consistency. Before Hastings' statement, here's an example of what motivated Comcast to introduce their bandwidth reduction measures, starting with this hard-to-swallow claim:
We've listened to feedback from our customers who asked that we provide a specific threshold for data usage and this would help them understand the amount of usage that would qualify as excessive.
So it's the Comcast customers who asked for bandwidth caps? I find this to be an exaggeration at best. At worst, it's an outright lie created by Comcast to deflect any criticisms about their cap policy. You see, if they put the onus on the customers, then they're Comcast is not to blame for implementing these caps because they're simply "meeting the needs of their customers." In all likelihood, the truth is much closer to this: The caps are a result of customer complaints concerning Comcast's Internet provision, and instead of improving their network's infrastructure, Comcast used these complaints to base their bandwidth cap strategy upon.
As for Hastings, based on his experience with Comcast's use of these caps, he doesn't believe the ISP follows the FCC's net neutrality principles, and so, he took to Facebook to voice his displeasure. Hastings' statement, in its entirety:
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?
Aside from the knowledge that Reed Hastings is an Xbox guy, what else did we learn? Well, in relation to streaming video and Comcast data usage caps, the two don't seem to get along well at all. Second, we learned that as long as you're using Comcast-friendly applications--the Xfinity Xbox app Hastings refers to is provided by Comcast--your cap usage doesn't seem to be effected. Which seems to indicate that, as long as you're using Comcast-approved applications, your cap usage is fine. However, if you use a third-party streaming video app--Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu--Comcast applies this to your monthly usage cap.
Does this sound like any kind of net neutrality you've ever heard of? Is it ethical for a company to play favorites in such a manner or was this a big misunderstanding on the part of Comcast, and under normal circumstances, Xfinity should count against your data usage?
The explanation/response from Comcast will be interesting, to say the least.