Comcast: Stream TV is IP-cable and shouldn't count against data usage limits

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) said its new Xfinity Stream TV product is an "IP-cable" service running over a managed network that should not, per FCC guidelines, factor into data usage limits the MSO is testing in certain parts of the country.

"Stream TV is an in-home IP-cable service delivered over Comcast's cable network, not over the public Internet," Comcast said in a statement. "IP-cable is not an 'over-the-top' streaming video service. Stream enables customers to enjoy their cable TV service on mobile devices in the home delivered over the managed cable network, without the need for additional equipment, like a traditional set-top-box."

Notably, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) uses very similar language to describe its IP-video trials in New York.

On Thursday, a Comcast FAQ post caused a stir when it revealed that Stream TV data usage will not be counted toward customers' monthly Xfinity Internet data usage. 

It's unclear whether Comcast's move to zero-rate its Stream TV traffic will draw the ire of the FCC, which instituted new net neutrality guidelines partly to prohibit ISPs from prioritizing their own services. So far the FCC hasn't acted against other zero-rating offerings, like T-Mobile's move to offer wireless music and video streams outside of customers' monthly data allotment.

At deadline, the FCC had not responded to FierceCable's inquiry as to whether Comcast's strategy is at odds with the agency's guidelines.

For its part, Comcast pointed to paragraphs 74 and 75 of the FCC's notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) from December 2014 that attempted to redefine MVPD in the age of streaming video. 

The agency noted that "an entity that delivers cable services via IP is a cable operator to the extent it delivers those services as managed video services over its own facilities and within its footprint."

The FCC document further noted, "IP-based service provided by a cable operator over its facilities and within its footprint must be regulated as a cable service not only because it is  compelled by the statutory definitions; it is also good policy, as it ensures that cable operators will continue to be subject to the pro-competitive, consumer-focused regulations that apply to cable even if they provide their services via IP."

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