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Apple courts Comcast for net neutrality-evading TV service

Apple wants a direct internet connection
Mon Mar 24 2014, 13:17
Apple TV player with TV screen showing UK movie interface

GADGET MAKER Apple and ISP Comcast are planning a joint venture for streaming TV service, in a move that might ramp up the net neutrality debate.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the companies are in talks to create a service that will provide the Apple TV with a direct connection to a new video on demand (VOD) channel, bypassing internet congestion that could otherwise cause buffering or pixelation to customers.

This echoes the recent deal struck between Comcast and the biggest US streaming video service Netflix, which resulted in the company paying Comcast for a direct connection to avoid congestion issues. However, in a recent blog post, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings described the deal as a short-term solution and a "necessary evil".

The Wall Street Journal reported that talks about the new service are in the early stages with the nature and content of the service still to be ironed out.

Comcast and Apple both have a vested interest in making their existing customer credential system the login platform for the service, as this would give them control over customers' data. This would ultimately decide the matter of whether this would be a Comcast-branded service hosted on Apple TV, or a new Apple TV service hosted through Comcast.

The other option might be to create an entirely new company to deliver the service end-to-end, however this would be much more costly and potentially prohibitive for both sides.

Comcast has agreed to adhere to strict net neutrality rules as a condition of its recent $45bn takeover of rival Time Warner Cable. The deal with Netflix and any future joint venture with Apple would therefore be based on bypassing other traffic rather than prioritisation over other streams.

The net neutrality debate has been largely confined to the US thus far, but last week MEPs warned European telecom operators that they will be expected to play fair when the issue inevitably comes up in the future. µ


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