Netflix cable box deal won’t be exempt from data caps
Netflix and Comcast will be available on the same cable box later this year, but Netflix video will still count against Comcast data caps.
Netflix’s deal to get its online video on Comcast’s X1 set-top boxes alongside traditional cable TV channels was reported earlier this month by Recode, with the companies saying they “have much work to do before the service will be available to consumers later this year.” The deal raised questions about whether Netflix would be exempt from Comcast data caps, but it has already been decided. A Comcast spokesperson answered “yes” when asked if Netflix will continue counting against data caps after being integrated into Comcast cable boxes.
“All data that flows over the public Internet (which includes Netflix) counts toward a customer’s monthly data usage,” Comcast told Ars today.
Comcast imposes 1TB monthly caps in portions of its territory, with overage fees ranging from $10 to $200 a month unless customers pay an extra $50 for unlimited data.
Comcast and Netflix have had a rocky relationship, with some of their squabbles centering on data caps and data cap exemptions (also known as zero-rating). In 2012, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings accused Comcast of “no longer following net neutrality principles” when the cable company exempted its Xfinity on-demand video for the Xbox 360 from data caps, while counting Netflix, HBO, and Hulu usage against the cap. In 2014, Netflix and Comcast fought over whether Netflix should have to pay to send video traffic directly into Comcast’s network. Netflix paid up.
Netflix said today that it would not answer more questions on the Comcast integration until it launches. The companies haven’t revealed financial terms of the deal or said whether pricing for consumers will be any different from buying Comcast TV and Netflix separately.
Despite its general opposition to data cap exemptions, Netflix struck a deal to exempt its video from data caps imposed by an ISP in Australia last year. After criticism, Netflix said it would avoid such deals in the future and that selective enforcement of data caps “effectively condone[s] discrimination among video services (some capped, some not).” Netflix eventually did join another data cap exemption program on T-Mobile USA’s mobile network while saying that T-Mobile’s zero-rating is OK because it’s open to video providers without payment being required.
Comcast hasn’t been selling data cap exemptions, but it courted controversy again late last year by launching a livestreaming TV service that doesn’t count against its data caps. While Comcast says its Stream TV video doesn’t travel over the Internet, the service is being reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission in an examination of whether data cap exemptions should be restricted under net neutrality rules.