Comcast launched a TV streaming service in a few cities back in 2015, and this year, it’s apparently planning a major expansion.
According to Reuters, Comcast plans to relaunch its streaming service, currently called Stream, under a new name and make it available everywhere Comcast is offered across the US.
The new service will reportedly be called Xfinity Instant TV, and it sounds fairly similar to what Stream already provides. The report says it could start at $15 per month for major broadcast networks, like ABC and NBC, but it could go up to $40 per month by adding on additional channels, like ESPN.
Stream is currently only available in certain cities within five states — Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Hampshire — so a nationwide launch would be a major expansion. Reuters reports that it could happen in the third quarter of the year.
Xfinity Instant TV would be a competitor to streaming services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now, but there’s a really critical detail here: Comcast’s service would only be available to households already paying for Comcast internet service, according to Reuters. And if it’s anything like Stream — which, by all means, it appears to be — it likely won’t count against Comcast subscribers’ internet data caps.
That would be a huge perk for Comcast customers and would give Comcast a big advantage over its competitors, since their services would count toward data caps. It’d also be a huge violation of net neutrality — in concept, though not in law — since it favors one streaming service (its own) over everything else.
Comcast has continued to argue that the above reading of the situation is completely wrong, that its streaming TV service doesn’t violate net neutrality, and that its streaming TV service is not, in fact, even an internet service. But the service is functionally equivalent to a streaming TV service — in that it passes through a broadband modem and is delivered to phones, tablets, and PCs — and the need for a Comcast internet subscription seems to underscore that.
For now, the above remains a bit of conjecture, since Xfinity Instant TV has not actually been announced yet. But given that the FCC has looked the other way on Stream, it’s not hard to imagine things panning out this way. And if Comcast expands that policy nationwide, we’ll really start to see what the internet’s like without net neutrality.