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Comcast denies favoring Xfinity video content

Cable giant says streaming arrangement with Xbox game consoles is in compliance with the FCC's Open Internet rules.

In response to charges that Comcast favors content streaming via its Xfinity app on the Xbox over that of its competitors, the cable giant denied giving preferential treatment to its app and said its traffic policies are in compliance with the FCC's Open Internet rules.

Comcast announced in March that it will stream Xfinity on-demand content to Microsoft game consoles. The fact that Comcast content streamed directly to the Xbox console will not be counted against subscribers' total bandwidth usage caps prompted accusations that the cable provider is giving its Xfinity app an unfair advantage over the apps of competitors, such as Netflix and Hulu.

The app-console combination "essentially acts as an additional cable box for your existing cable service," Comcast Chief Technology Officer Tony Werner said in a blog post today. "Specifically, we provision a separate, additional bandwidth flow into the home for the use of this service," he said.

"It's really important to us that we make crystal clear that, in contrast to some other providers, we are not prioritizing our transmission of Xfinity TV content to the Xbox (as some have speculated)," he wrote. "While DSCP [Differentiated Services Code Point] markings can be used to assign traffic different priority levels, that is not their only application -- and that is not what they are being used for here."

Consumer advocates say the bandwidth cap exemption violates the Net neutrality rules that Comcast had to agree to as part of the conditions for its merger with NBC Universal. Those rules prohibit broadband providers from favoring their own content on the open Internet over that of their competitors.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been a particularly outspoken critic of the Xfinity exemption, saying in a Facebook post last month that, "Comcast should apply caps equally, or not at all."

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent letters to the FCC and Justice Department last week, expressing concern that the Xfinity exemption violates Net neutrality rules and urging the agencies to take a closer look at the arrangement.