Net Neutrality

Feb 11 2014

News - Student Provides Evidence that Comcast is Throttling Netflix

There has been a lot of talk on the Interwebs about the possibility that ISPs like Comcast are purposely degrading the bandwidth available to Netflix. While it makes a great story, most reasonable people are understandably skeptical that they would do something like that; sure it helps in the short term, but long term it clearly demonstrates the need for some sort of regulation like net neutrality. So I was surprised to see what appears to be pretty compelling evidence that Comcast is in fact throttling Netflix.

...As a Indiana University student, my school is kind enough to provide every student with VPN access into their network. IU’s network is connected to a regional fiber backbone and provides 100 Mbps access in every dorm on campus. When you connect via VPN, you’re limited in speed by your local Internet connection, as well as the typical issues associated with VPN (increased latency, VPN congestion, etc). I figured I would try watching Netflix over the VPN, though I was skeptical as to if it would really be faster than a direct link from my ISP connection to Netflix’s servers.


The IU VPN is SSL encrypted, which means that the details about all traffic sent over it is hidden from Comcast. When I access Netflix over this VPN connection, all Comcast sees is an encrypted stream of data going through their network. They can estimate how much data is moving, but can’t tell that I’m using Netflix, or streaming video for that matter. Therefore, they don’t throttle it.

Matt Vukas

I don’t know enough about WAN topology to say that this is definitive proof, but it certainly is very suspicious.


May 07 2012

News - Senator Al Franken Concerned that XFINITY TV on Xbox Live May Violate Network Neutrality

A few days before releasing the XFINITY TV app for the Xbox 360, Comcast posted a FAQ regarding the app. For many folks, the most interesting tidbit was Comcast's announcement that XFINITY TV on Xbox Live usage would not count against Comcast subscribers' bandwidth caps. Comcast's reasoning was that all of the data transmissions were occurring on Comcast's private network and not being sent over the Internet. Indeed, that FAQ went on to point out that the Xbox app was unique and that this exemption did not apply to apps on other platforms or to PC browser access.

Eye of Franken

Nevertheless, Comcast had to know that the decision would raise some eyebrows. Senator Al Franken, a longtime net neutrality advocate, decided that raising his eyebrows was not enough and has written a letter to the FCC and the Department of Justice urging the agencies to re-examine the NBC-Comcast merger, of which Franken has been a staunch critic, citing the XFINITY app as one example of how Comcast seems to be working to circumvent the conditions of the merger. This comes on the heels of Netflix CEO Reed Hasting's pointed complaints in which he described Comcast's move as "not neutral". 

Franken concludes: "I am concerned that these sorts of delays always inure to the benefit of Comcast and give Comcast further incentive to challenge any aspect of its compliance with the merger order." He's also "very concerned" about Comcast’s announcement last month that its Xbox Live television streaming would not count against existing data caps. Comcast argues the video is "being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet."

Ars Technica

Mar 27 2012

News - Comcast XFINITY TV on Xbox Live Does Not Count Against Data Caps

Comcast is apparently close to releasing their XFINITY TV app for the Xbox 360 as the company has lit up some new support pages for the app. There is no mention of the company's recently announced Streampix service, but there are a number of interesting details about how the app will work and tap into the XFINITY On Demand service. The detail that is likely to catch the most attention is that streaming to XFINITY TV on the Xbox 360 will not count against customers' data caps. Comcast's justification is based on the assertion that streaming to Xbox Live is done entirely over the company's private IP network, and not over the Internet. The company also points out that XFINITY access from a web browser or mobile device will continue to count against data caps because that traffic does go out over the Internet. Comcast's move is sure to generate a great deal of attention and is almost certain to renew the debate over net neutrality rules. Net neutrality was a political powder keg the last time round, and with election year politics in the mix, Comcast could end up igniting a full-fledged firestorm. Will flying the private network flag rally supporters to Comcast's cause, or make the company a target?

Comcast XFINITY on Xbox

Comcast says the Xbox app gets special treatment because the video is "being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet." This gives the service a potentially large advantage over not just other video streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, but also over Comcast On Demand content streamed through the company's website and mobile apps, both of which count against the data limits.

Ars Technica

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