According to a report filed by The Wall Street Journal and citing its own sources, the US Department of Justice is currently in the stages of investigating the nation’s largest cable service providers regarding policies related to data caps for internet access and internal access policies which exclude the providers own services from monthly access caps at the behest of third-party services such as Hulu, NetFlix and other non-entertainment related services, such as cloud storage.
The investigation comes as recent changes from companies such as Comcast effectively penalize customers for using any services other than its own Xfinity branded services for video on demand and cloud storage as it excludes those services from its monthly data caps while similar services from third-parties are counted against the cap, the rationale for the behavior being that Comcast’s own services are served from its own internal network, while the costs for serving up access to third-party services are putting a strain on the provider due to the amount of bandwidth used.
The changes to Comcast’s data cap policy were enough for NetFlix CEO Reed Hastings to pen a screed against the practice and call for an increased focus on Net Neutrality and more oversight on cable service carriers to ensure that policies to manage network access don’t affect the capability of third-party services to offer access to customers and potentially affect new services. Currently, Comcast has placed a moratorium on its current data cap policy in select markets while it conducts a long-term study on its past activity and revises its service to allow those that use more data than others to pay for their higher than normal usage, as the cable operator implemented data caps in 2008 and is looking for more information on how to best proceed with its strategy despite many enthusiasts and users with specific needs voicing ardent opinions against the practice, due to the limitations of Comcast’s current caps and similar limitations being imposed by other cable services such as AT&T’s U-Verse and more recently, its DSL service.
Should the investigation into cable company data caps provide sufficient evidence for an antitrust suit, it may be the first step which could lead to eliminating the longstanding local mono-duopoly status that cable companies such as the aforementioned Comcast and Time Warner enjoy in many major markets across the country, to the point where alternative providers and even local governments are unable to enter select markets due to the federal government allowing such arrangements under current regulations.