Netflix CEO calls out Comcast on net neutrality

When most Comcast subscribers complain, it’s a blip. When the CEO of Netflix (s NFLX) vents to his 120,000 subscribers on Facebook, it’s a salvo. Reed Hastings doesn’t agree with Comcast’s (s CMCSK) approach to net neutrality and caps — and he wants everyone to know it.

His beef? Watch Netflix, Hulu (s DIS) (s NWS) or HBO Go (S TWX) on Xbox and it counts against Comcast’s broadband cap for consumers. Use Comcast’s own Xfinity app and it doesn’t. Translation: Anyone worried about hitting the cap will watch what they can on Xfinity, giving it an advantage over the other services like Netflix or even a service it partially owns (but has no say over), Hulu.

From his Facebook post:

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?

It’s not the first time Hastings has turned to Facebook to raise a question about Comcast. Late last month, he lobbied for the nation’s largest cable operator to allow access to HBO Go on the Xbox. Then, he raised the cap issue a tad more gently:

Once I get HBO GO on my Xbox, then it will be strange that streaming Game of Thrones from the HBO GO app on my Xbox will count against my Comcast internet cap, but when I watch those same Game of Thrones streams through the Comcast app on Xbox, over the same wifi connection to my Xbox, then it will not count against my cap. Hmmm…

No “hmmm” about it this time.

Netflix recently formed Flixpac, its own political action committee. What can it do about net neutrality? My colleague Stacey Higgenbotham explained:

In conversations with insiders in DC and at Netflix, the video streaming service’s agenda has become clear. Get rid of the Video Protection Privacy Act and help push an agenda to keeps content flowing across the web. Issues such as Comcast not counting video streamed via the Xbox against its cap and the Verizon deal to buy spectrum from the cable companies all have implications for Netflix’s business model. In the first example it brings up the issues of creating what essentially becomes a private version of the Internet to sling Comcast video on demand content around in a manner that won’t penalize the consumer for streaming.

We haven’t heard the last from Hastings on this subject. He’ll use any and every means to get the point across.

Update: I should have included the reason Comcast sees a difference between the video it delivers through Xfinity and video that comes from other services. As Stacey H. explains here, Comcast manages Xfinity delivery to the Xbox through its own IP network rather than across the public Internet. Comcast the ISP isn’t counting usage managed through its private network against the 250GB broadband cap. Comcast has yet to reply to my request for comment.

(via Jason Hirshhorn)