Reed Hastings is mad at Comcast, but he may have good reason. On his Facebook page yesterday, the Netflix CEO claimed that Comcast is giving its subscribers better access to its own video services than rivals like Netflix. He claims that using services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go will eat into a Comcast Internet subscribers 250GB bandwidth limit; Comcast’s competing Xfinity video service, however, can be used without any penalty.
“Comcast [is] no longer following net neutrality principles,” writes Hastings. “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 Wi-Fi, the same Internet connection, but totally different cap treatment. In what way is this neutral?”
While we normally think of net neutrality as a debate about ISPs like Comcast speeding up or slowing down competing services, Hastings may be right. If this is true, Comcast may be leveraging its dominant position as an Internet Service Provder to subtly help its own services and hurt others, like Netflix.
Hastings has been vocal about his distaste for Comcast in the past and the argument ISPs like it are making that Netflix is hurting their bottom line. In February, he was asked if cable companies are “pressured” by the large amounts of data Netflix requires and he responded somewhat sarcastically.
“That 92 percent Comcast operating margin is really under a lot of pressure…There is no financial pressure on ISPs. They are making a fortune,” said Hastings (via CNET).
I do agree with him. It would be a lot better for all of us if ISPs dropped the bandwidth caps. We have to deal with extensive bandwidth limits on our smartphones already.
(Photo by Kevin Spacey, Time)