Internet service is Internet service, all the way through the last mile

30 November 2015 by Steve Blum
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It’s not double parking. It’s a specialised service.

There’s a big problem with Comcast’s claim that the streaming video service it offers broadband-only customers isn’t an Internet service, but rather cable service that’s moving over its internal, Internet-protocol network. As far as I can tell, its $15 a month Stream service is using the same last mile bandwidth that more distant Internet connections use.

In other words, there’s only a certain amount of Internet protocol bandwidth available to customers, and if Comcast loads its up with a proprietary streaming video service, the speed and service quality of connections to other services, such as Hulu or Netflix, will be significantly degraded.

There’s no reason Comcast can’t use its customers’ last mile connections to compete with other video services, but when it does, it has to do so on an even playing field. At least according to the FCC’s net neutrality requirements. At least that’s what the rules say. Comcast, as I written before, doesn’t think that applies to its own products because it’s a cable company and can therefore just label any video it provides as a cable service and not an Internet service.

Except that the customers involved are not cable customers. They are buying Internet service and Internet service alone from Comcast. The bottleneck in the bandwidth they’re paying for is frequently – arguably usually – in the last mile connection. Jamming an unlimited amount of Comcast-provided video down that connection while capping everything else at 300 GB a month is not playing on a level field.

The FCC promised that it would “vigilantly watch for such abuse”. If it’s to be taken seriously then it must recognise that Comcast is, as the net neutrality rules describe, trying to “evade the open Internet rules”.