FCC Complaint Filed Against Comcast's Stream TV

Public Knowledge has filed a complaint at the FCC over Comcast's exclusion of Stream TV from a customers' data caps.

It could become the first test of the FCC's case-by-case approach to potentially anticompetitive conduct not expressly prohibited by it Open Internet order.

While PK says the service is inconsistent with the FCC's Open Internet rules, it also says it violates a merger commitment in the Comcast/NBCU deal, so it could get two bites at the complaint apple.

Public Knowledge alleges in the complaint that Comcast is using discriminatory billing practices that disadvantage competing online video service, that it treats Stream TV differently than it does unaffiliated traffic.

“When Comcast bought NBC-Universal, both the FCC and Department of Justice recognized that Comcast could take steps to unfairly disadvantage online video. Among other things, both agencies prohibited Comcast from excluding its own services from data caps or metering, and required it to count traffic from competing online video services the same as its own. Comcast's behavior violates the plain terms of its merger commitments and the consent decree.”

The reference to the FCC's Open Internet rules is to the general conduct standard--there is no bright-line rule against sponsored data/zero rating plans--which addresses anticompetitive behavior on a case-by-case basis.

“Just as when addressing similar issues in the past, Public Knowledge doesn’t have the facts straight," said Comcast in a statement. "Our Stream TV cable package does not go over the Internet, so it can’t possibly violate a condition which only applies to Internet content. Customers do not access Stream TV through their broadband service.  Period.  Public Knowledge saying so over and over does not make it so.  The bottom line is that Stream TV doesn’t violate any FCC or DOJ requirement from our NBCUniversal deal, just as the complaints they filed over three years ago which the FCC declined to take action on did not.

"Stream TV is delivered as a cable service on the same private, managed network that delivers all our other cable television services in the home, and is subject to all the regulations that apply to our other cable TV services such as franchise fees, PEG requirements, closed-captioning, and emergency alerts.  Those regulations don’t apply to content that goes over the Internet, just another demonstration how different Stream TV is than Internet delivered services.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.