TWC’s Xbox App Draws Net-Neutrality Concerns


Time Warner Cable’s new app for the Xbox 360 turns the gaming console into a set-top box, but last week’s launch didn’t slip by without drawing some network-neutrality heat because bandwidth used to deliver app won’t count against broadband usage caps.

TWC is delivering up to 300 linear TV channels to the Xbox 360 over a managed Internet-protocol connection (with video-on-demand support coming in about six months), so it’s not interfering with bandwidth that’s set aside for high-speed Internet service.

“This is not an Internet product,” Mike Angus, TWC’s senior vice president and general manager of video, said. “This is in-home delivery, no different in many respects than QAM delivery to a set-top box. It’s just a different format.”

That also means that app usage won’t count against TWC’s two optional usage-based Internet service tiers that currently only apply to light users. The MSO offers a discount if those subscribers don’t exceed those monthly usage thresholds (5 Gigabytes or 30 GB), and charges $1 per GB if they exceed those caps, up to $25 per billing cycle.

TWC’s policy for the Xbox 360 caught the attention of Public Knowledge vice president Michael Weinberg, who is concerned that cable companies will use high-speed Internet service data caps to protect their video service and undermine over-the-top competition.

“The dual control creates a massive conflict of interest,” Weinberg wrote in an Aug. 28 blog post. “Cable companies are facing competition but — good news! — they also control a vital ingredient that makes that competition possible. In the absence of some sort of check, their logical reaction to such a situation is to leverage their control over Internet access to protect their pay television service.”

Public Knowledge was similarly critical of Comcast’s VOD app for the Xbox 360, which also does not count against Comcast’s usage-based policies.

Comcast has previously held that its policy for Xfinity On Demand content delivered to the Xbox 360 complies with Open Internet rules because it does not travel over the public Internet.