Time Warner Cable launched a new app on the Xbox 360 Tuesday that gives subscribers of the pay TV provider access to live feeds from up to 300 TV channels, including programming from networks like ABC, FOX and Comedy Central. The announcement comes after Verizon and Comcast launched similar apps on Xbox – and just like Comcast’s app, it may cause some controversy. That’s because Time Warner Cable decided that any video viewed through the app won’t count against a subscriber’s data cap.
Time Warner Cable acknowledged as much when asked about it by GigaOM Tuesday, with a spokesperson emailed us: “This isn’t an Internet offering.”
That’s the same argument Comcast used when it came under fire from net neutrality advocates and competitors like Netflix for not counting the bandwidth consumed by its Xbox 360 app against its subscribers’ data cap. Comcast said at the time that any videos viewed via the app would be delivered via the company’s private IP networks, and not through the public internet.
As my colleague Stacey Higginbotham wrote last year, that may technically be true – but also points to a bigger problem of what’s wrong with net neutrality regulation in this country. It essentially allows ISPs to provide internet-like services but facilitate those services over the ISP’s own managed networks, thereby putting them out of reach of regulators.
It’s worth pointing out that Time Warner Cable doesn’t impose caps on all of its customers. Instead, the ISP started offering discounted value plans for people who use very little data. Customers who opt into the 5 GB per month Internet Essentials plan get an $8 discount on their monthly bill, whereas the 30 GB per month plan gets consumers a $5 discount. Users that go over these caps have to pay $1 per additional GB.
A Time Warner Cable spokesperson was quick to point out that both plans are voluntary. But as Stacey has pointed out before, plans like these aren’t that great of a deal for consumers – and in the end, they may also put competitors to a cable company’s TV business into a significant disadvantage.