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Net neutrality crusaders take aim at Comcast's Stream TV service

Complaint asks FCC to punish cable colossus

Open internet group Public Knowledge is accusing Comcast of violating net neutrality rules.

The complaint filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) alleges that by not counting its Stream TV service towards its monthly data cap allotment, Comcast is favoring its own offering in violation of rules the commission set out when approving Comcast's merger with NBC in early 2011.

"The Commission must enforce its policies and Comcast's merger commitments. Comcast's violations are not merely technical violations," the complaint reads.

"Comcast's actions could harm consumers by turning the online video distribution marketplace from an open and competitive market to one dominated by cable incumbents such as Comcast."

Introduced last Fall, Stream TV allows Comcast TV subscribers to view streaming content from a number of television networks to a PC or mobile device.

Normally, customers are allowed to stream a set amount of data at full speed each month. Those who exceed the 300GB limit are then charged extra in their monthly bill. Stream TV content, however, is not counted against that cap.

Public Knowledge argues that by exempting Stream TV, Comcast is giving a competitive advantage to its own service on its network and therefore violating the provisions set out in the merger deal laid out by the FCC.

Comcast has made no secret of the fact that Stream TV data is not considered subject to data caps, arguing that because the content is being streamed by Comcast over its own network, it is not considered "internet" traffic and not subject to a cap.

"Stream TV is delivered as a cable service on the same private, managed network that delivers all our other cable television services in the home, and is subject to all the regulations that apply to our other cable TV services such as franchise fees, PEG requirements, closed-captioning, and emergency alerts," Comcast said in a statement to The Reg.

"Those regulations don't apply to content that goes over the Internet, just another demonstration how different Stream TV is than internet-delivered services."

The debate is similar to the argument that net neutrality advocates have had with US carrier T-Mobile over its BingeOn service, which similarly exempts some streaming content from data caps. ®

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