Failures

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
blocking, hbo go, net neutrality, playstation 4

Companies:
comcast, hbo, sony



Comcast Blocks HBO Go From Working On Playstation 4, Won't Coherently Explain Why

from the we're-helping! dept

About a year ago we noted how Comcast has a weird tendency to prevent its broadband users from being able to use HBO Go on some fairly standard technology, including incredibly common Roku hardware. For several years Roku users couldn't use HBO Go if they had a Comcast connection, and for just as long Comcast refused to explain why. Every other broadband provider had no problem ensuring the back-end authentication (needed to confirm you have a traditional cable connection) worked, but not Comcast.

HBO Go is part of the cable and broadcast industry's "TV Everywhere" initiative, the shortfalls of which we've tackled previously. HBO Go, as part of the TV Everywhere initiative, requires you prove you're a traditional cable customer before you can access most online content. For example, if you want to watch HBO Go on your Roku 3, the HBO Go app simply needs Comcast servers to quickly confirm that you are a paying cable customer. Comcast's refusing to make this part of the connection process work, effectively restricting users from using bandwidth they pay for, over hardware they own, to access content they also pay for.

The goal of course is to keep as many users as possible on Comcast's X1 set top platform and away from the most popular Internet video devices. Last I saw, Roku sells around 30% of all streaming video hardware sold in any given month. Comcast clearly can't admit they're being shifty, so when pressed on why it takes them years to set up a simple authentication mechanism, the company usually makes up a rotating crop of bullshit excuses:
"With every new website, device or player we authenticate, we need to work through technical integration and customer service which takes time and resources. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize as we partner with various players."
Roku had to file an FCC complaint to get Comcast to finally stop doing this. At the time, the filing argued that while "throttling" and "blocking" get all the attention as weapons of discrimination, the TV Everywhere authentication model is also a useful weapon for large cable providers when it comes to harming competing services:
"While an ISP can throttle content delivery speeds to effect anti-competitive discrimination, throttling is only the most transparent of a long list of discriminatory actions than an ISP with market power can undertake. [Additional discriminatory actions may] include control over data caps and authentication to hinder content and platforms that directly compete with the ISP's own or affiliated content."
And the problem wasn't just with Roku. When HBO Go on the Playstation 3 was released, it worked with every other TV-Everywhere compatible provider, but not Comcast. When customers complained in the Comcast forums, they were greeted with total silence. When customers called in to try and figure out why HBO Go wouldn't work, they usually received incorrect statements from front level support (it should arrive in 48 hours, don't worry!).

Fast forward nearly a year since the HBO Go Playstation 3 launch (it still doesn't work), and Sony has now announced an HBO Go app for the Playstation 4 console. And guess what -- when you go to activate the app you'll find it works with every major broadband ISP -- except Comcast. Why? Comcast still won't really say, but the company appears to have backed away from claims that the delay is due to technical or customer support issues, and is now telling forum visitors the hangup is related to some ambiguous business impasse:
"HBO Go availability on PS3 (and some other devices) are business decisions and deal with business terms that have not yet been agreed to between the parties. Thanks for your continued patience."
Since every other ISP (including AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable) didn't have a problem supporting the app, you have to assume Comcast specifically isn't getting something from Sony or HBO it would like (read: enough money to make them feel comfortable about potentially cannibalizing traditional TV/HBO viewers). Comcast's basically using the TV Anywhere authentication mechanism -- as opposed to outright blocking or throttling -- to prohibit its customers from accessing content in a way Comcast doesn't approve of. In this way Comcast's behavior, while not necessarily a net neutrality offense on its surface, is certainly part of the conversation in regards to gatekeeper power.

Fortunately for users in this instance, HBO's about to launch a stand alone app that won't need cable authentication, taking Comcast out of the equation anyway. Still, this is a good example of how crafting net neutrality rules is only part of the conversation about mega-ISP power. It's great to have rules governing the pipes themselves, but they don't mean much if other anti-competitive behaviors can just be hidden behind half-answers and faux-technical nonsense for years on end without repercussion.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 6:18am

    And this falls under reasonable network management how?

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  • identicon
    Doodmonkey, 5 Mar 2015 @ 6:26am

    I can tell you why

    The HBO GO app streams it's data from HBO servers outside the Comcast network. Comcast just recently spent a lot of money with HBO to double/triple the titles available on Comcast VOD services. I think the feeling is they don't want to pay for bandwidth again since they already paid for the HBO library and are already storing/transferring bits related to it. HBO GO would allow more people to cut cords and the investment Comcast made with HBO would be diminished.

    Not saying I agree with it, but I'm pretty sure that's the attitude with the corporate folks.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 6:33am

      Re: I can tell you why

      In other words, Comcast wants more money. Got it.

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    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:01am

      Re: I can tell you why

      They're blocking the app from working to protect their existing set top and traditional cable revenues. And they're the only major ISP doing this.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:46am

        Re: Re: I can tell you why

        "They're blocking the app"

        I'm a bit confused about whether this is active sabotage or willful neglect. Has Comcast gone out of its way to block HBO Go, perhaps similar to the way that Comcast intentionally sabotaged Bittorrent traffic by forging RST packets? (and yes, Comcast lied about that caper for ages until finally caught red-handed)

        https://www.eff.org/wp/packet-forgery-isps-report-comcast-affair

        Or, assuming that HBO Go requires something more than just a dumb pipe [which we call The Internet] was this more a case of dragging their feet when it came to performing the technical upgrades (if such a thing even exists) that might have been necessary to make HBO Go work?

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        • icon
          Aaron Von Gauss (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:54am

          Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

          While it seems to amount to the same thing for the consumer, Comcast is not blocking HBO Go but rather has not provided the necessary support for the service to work. HBO Go requires an HBO channel subscription, this must be verified with the cable operator. While it could be purely a technical issue, it may also have other business issues related to it that have made Comcast less inclined to provide the support.

          Either way, the fact that streaming is very trendy right now and HBO can not provide a streaming service to a large number of customers is probably helping to motivate HBO to bring a non-channel based product to market.

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          • icon
            Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

            "While it seems to amount to the same thing for the consumer, Comcast is not blocking HBO Go but rather has not provided the necessary support for the service to work."

            That strikes me as semantics for the sole benefit of Comcast. They refused to provide "necessary support" for Roku for THREE YEARS, the end result being people unable to use their broadband connection the way they'd like.

            As the article notes it's clearly not a "purely technical issue."

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:55am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

              A key question here is whether Comcast's own video-on-demand service, XFINITY, works on these same devices that HBO Go does not.

              And if that's the case, then it's not hard to see the strategic commercial advantage this gives Comcast for not fixing HBO Go.

              It would indeed be interesting to learn if Comcast had been in negotiations with HBO, trying to include HBO shows as part of its XFINITY service -- and then failing to work out an agreement, *coincidentially* dragging its feet on making HBO Go work properly on Comcast.

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              • icon
                Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 11:03am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

                Comcast wants you to view Xfinity and HBO content on THEIR X1 cable boxes and on demand platforms, where you deal with THEIR ad choices, and user behavior monetization technologies, etc. That's all this has ever been about.

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            • icon
              Aaron Von Gauss (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:54pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

              It is semantics until the phrases "blocked" or "net neutrality" get thrown around, then it becomes important. This has nothing to do with how someone can use their broadband connection, it relates directly to a premium pay cable TV service offering and the associated benefits.

              No one that I am aware of that would know the reasons have spoken publicly about why HBO / (MiddleMan) / Comcast have not made the HBO Go product universally available. Anything we say is pure speculation, for all we know HBO wants a greater fee from cable operators when their customers have access via alternate methods and/or Comcast may want an implementation fee from the device provider and/or HBO to implement another device.

              The reality is the TV Everywhere initiative is horrible for consumers as it helps to keep them locked in to the old "mafia style" model of cable TV packages. In this model the customer cannot express choice because of bulk packages and is at an extreme disadvantage to both the cable TV operators and the content distributors (i.e. HBO, ESPN) - a very anti-free market theme if there ever was one.

              Comcast may still have aspirations about their X1 platform and being the device of choice by consumers, though I think that ship sailed about 7 years ago and about $5 per month in device rental fees hikes ago. Like NetFlix we want to think HBO is the good guy in this, but the rumored price point of $15 per month for HBO Now should help remind everyone that content distributors are just as much responsible if not more so than cable operators for the high cost of content and the limited choices.

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              • icon
                Karl Bode (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 4:58am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

                "It is semantics until the phrases "blocked" or "net neutrality" get thrown around, then it becomes important. This has nothing to do with how someone can use their broadband connection, it relates directly to a premium pay cable TV service offering and the associated benefits."
                You're offering absolutely no reason why these semantics are important here and this isn't part of the broader net neutrality debate. Again, it doesn't matter if Comcast is using a refusal to authenticate or throttling -- the end result is the same: They're using their position of power to prevent people from accessing content they pay for on hardware they own.

                How people are upset that I'm suggesting this is even part of the net neutrality conversation seems bizarre to me. People are going to have to open their eyes wider, as the net neutrality discussion has broadened as ISPs get more clever about these abuses.

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                • icon
                  mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:34am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

                  There is a huge difference between refusal to authenticate and throttling. One is the TV division, one is the Internet division. One is not subject to net neutrality regulation, while the other is.

                  You are correct in that they both result from Comcast being a dick, but you can't regulate that out of somebody. If they're a dick, they'll always find a new way to be a dick.

                  Once again, nothing t all to do with Net neutrality and the Internet, everything to do with TV.

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        • icon
          Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:51am

          Re: Re: Re: I can tell you why

          "I'm a bit confused about whether this is active sabotage or willful neglect."
          I'm not sure I see the difference here. Roku owners with Comcast broadband connections were unable to access the app for THREE YEARS because Comcast intentionally refused to get TV Anywhere authentication up and running.

          The end result was prohibiting Comcast customers from being able to use hardware they own and the bandwidth they pay for to access the content they pay for over the Internet.

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      • icon
        beth (profile), 9 Mar 2015 @ 11:06pm

        Re: Re: I can tell you why

        That's why they're blocking things like msnbc.com for non-tv subscribers as well?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:56am

      Re: I can tell you why

      I paid a lot for my car, so I'll just set up road blocks everywhere I go so either only I can go on the road or I get a lane all to myself.

      Who cares what Comcast invested in HBO shows? If people buy them from Comcast, great for Comcast. If people buy them elsewhere and use their Comcast service, that they pay for, to access it, Comcast doesn't get to have a say. There isn't even a quasi-legal, piraty or think-of-the-children argument to be made here.

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    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:04am

      Funny how that works isn't it?

      I think the feeling is they don't want to pay for bandwidth again since they already paid for the HBO library and are already storing/transferring bits related to it.

      You know, that sounds remarkably like the little spat they had with Netflix, where they demanded Netflix pay them for the 'privilege' of carrying their service, even though both Netflix and Comcast's customers had already paid their share.

      Sadly, I'm sure the humor based upon their hypocrisy is lost on them.

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      • identicon
        Pragmatic, 6 Mar 2015 @ 4:40am

        Re: Funny how that works isn't it?

        So... where are all the anti-net neutrality people?

        I hear crickets.

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      • icon
        mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:39am

        Re: Funny how that works isn't it?

        Completely unrelated. NetFlix was a paid peering vs. settlement free peering dispute. NetFlix didn't want to pay anything and COmcast disagreed. NetFlix departed from the established CDNs which do pay for their peering to ensure quality IP (afterall, that's exactly what their clients pay them for) to roll their own, hoping they could strong-arm entities into free connections.

        Now I personally would thoroughly enjoy a settlement free interconnection with NetFlix (hopefully later this year or next?), but it was Comcast's decision to not. Highly dubious motivation, I'm sure, but their decision.

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    • icon
      nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:30am

      Re: I can tell you why

      HBO GO would allow more people to cut cords and the investment Comcast made with HBO would be diminished.

      You still have to have a cable/satellite HBO subscription to get HBO Go. So this isn't directly about cord cutters, though maybe Comcast is thinking ahead (hard to imagine) and doesn't want their customers getting used to the idea of getting TV from the internet.

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      • identicon
        Schume, 7 Mar 2015 @ 7:49pm

        Re: Re: I can tell you why

        nasch, Comcast is already into 'net TV, as in the following 2013 article:
        "The three companies that mutually own Hulu — 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal — said Friday that instead of selling the pioneering streaming video Web site, they would make a new investment of $750 million and use Hulu’s technology to compete against other online distributors like Netflix..The companies have clashed repeatedly over Hulu for years; meanwhile, the third owner, NBCUniversal, has been a silent partner since being acquired by Comcast in early 2011. (At that time the government barred Comcast from being involved in Hulu’s business affairs, for fear that it would try to impose restrictions on Hulu to protect its core cable business.)"

        http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/13/business/media/owners-of-hulu-call-off-sale-and-plan-to -invest-750-million.html?_r=0

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  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 6:51am

    If you want to know why Comcast isn't supporting HBO Go on consoles, all one need do is compare its price for HBO service on its cable bill to, well, common sense to see why the company is afraid of the app's potential impact to its revenue stream.

    Fear not, Sony console owners and revenue providers to future SOPA bills, HBO Go, when released to the public, will play on all consoles without need of a cable subscription, provided you subscribe to the possible $15/mo subscription instead.

    These apps have been updated for the new non-cable subscription model (and giving you one more reason to drop Comcast's cable).

    :)

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 6:54am

    No merger for you.

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  • identicon
    Hans, 5 Mar 2015 @ 6:57am

    Neutral networks

    And why isn't this the poster-child for why we need net-neutrality?

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    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:03am

      Re: Neutral networks

      Because we've entered a phase where you can violate net neutrality (and consumers will even support you) if you're just clever enough about claiming you're not violating net neutrality.

      "We're uh, just negotiating and ironing out last minute business negotiations...suggesting this is any way a gatekeeper abuse of a dominant market position is the very height of absurdity!"

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      • identicon
        Hans, 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:59am

        Re: Re: Neutral networks

        I think many folks are missing what I missed; that the main issue here is not that Comcast is "blocking" HBO Go in the classical sense, and therefore this has little to do with neutrality. Comcast are simply foot-dragging on agreeing to tell HBO who is and is not an actual HBO subscriber. We can make up all sort of theories as to why Comcast would do this....

        However, I think it goes a bit too far to say we want neutrality to include compelling ISP's like Comcast (as much as I dislike them) to integrate with random walled-garden applications like HBO Go. That makes as much sense as Blackberry's "app neutrality" idea.

        As @Chronno S. Trigger said in another comment, HBO could solve this by simply offering an unbundled (or PPV) service. Likely they're too chicken, for their own reasons.

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        • icon
          Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:34am

          Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

          "I think many folks are missing what I missed; that the main issue here is not that Comcast is "blocking" HBO Go in the classical sense, and therefore this has little to do with neutrality. Comcast are simply foot-dragging on agreeing to tell HBO who is and is not an actual HBO subscriber. We can make up all sort of theories as to why Comcast would do this...."
          Again, I see that as semantics. The definition of blocking is creating obstacles, and that's precisely what Comcast is doing here. A key component of neutrality (to me) is a gatekeeper using its size and power to deter competing services from hurting its own services, and again, that's precisely what's happening here.

          I absolutely think this falls under the net neutrality umbrella. It's Comcast getting in the way of people using their connections and hardware as they see fit.

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          • icon
            nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:49am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

            But it is HBO's choice to make subscribers authenticate with a cable provider. Comcast is not interfering with any traffic, they're just doing as they see fit with traffic that gets sent to them - not a subscriber. Why should the FCC force Comcast to respond in a particular way to an authentication request? That seems way outside their jurisdiction.

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            • icon
              Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:54am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

              "But it is HBO's choice to make subscribers authenticate with a cable provider."
              No, not really. HBO is basically a lap dog to the cable industry because they get so many subsidies from it. The entire cable industry's "TV Anywhere" initiative is all about forcing consumers to prove they have traditional cable if they want to access certain Internet content.
              "Why should the FCC force Comcast to respond in a particular way to an authentication request? That seems way outside their jurisdiction."
              Because Comcast is intentionally refusing to get authentication working so that fewer customers use non-Comcast devices to access content. It's still anti-competitive behavior, even if they're hiding behind their decision to not authenticate. Again, no other major ISP has had any problems getting this relatively simple authentication process up and running from day one.

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              • icon
                mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:43am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                You say no other ISP has had any problems, but you should be saying no other TV provider has had any problems... because that's where the problem lies. Not with the ISP, but with the TV.

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          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

            Network neutrality has always been about how traffic is carried over the pipes. It's never been about how the sources and destinations of that traffic respond to it.

            This HBO Go thing relates to how the destination of the traffic responds, not to how the traffic is carried over the pipes. So it's not a NN issue. Saying that isn't to say that it's not an issue that deserves to be addressed, just that it's beyond the scope of the NN effort.

            As it should be, in my opinion. If we expand the debate to "should content providers be forced to provide content in a specific way", then we're not only mixing apples and oranges, but the the whole situation becomes very problematic.

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            • icon
              Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

              "Network neutrality has always been about how traffic is carried over the pipes. It's never been about how the sources and destinations of that traffic respond to it."
              ISPs originally wanted to throttle, block, or create fast lanes to double dip. When it was clear regulators and the public weren't going to allow this, they simply got more creative. Using zero rated apps, for example, or through abusing interconnection agreements, they were able to get their pound of flesh in a different way.

              Here, Comcast is just using a different mechanism (refusal to set up a simple authentication process) for the same end result (preventing users from accessing the content they want on their own hardware).

              The definition of net neutrality is expanding as ISPs get more clever about seeking out said pound of flesh. Whether that's blocking Google Wallet on phones to give your own mobile payment service a leg up, or failing to enact authentication so users can access a common app you don't like, it's all part of the same conversation.

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              • identicon
                Hans, 5 Mar 2015 @ 11:56am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                I'm sorry Karl, I don't buy your argument, and it seems I'm not alone here. All I want is my IP packets to travel unmolested over the tubes I paid for access to.

                I think dragging the HBO issue into net neutrality confuses Comcast as a cable company with Comcast as an ISP. One delivers HBO to subscribers, the other delivers IP packets, hopefully unmolested, to the world. Common-carrier status should apply to the IP packets, not regulate how customers can or cannot get their favorite "cable shows".

                If HBO wants to limit their subscribers to those with "cable", and Comcast is happy with their customers only getting half of HBO's service, then that sounds like "business" to me. Call Comcast and cancel your HBO if you don't like it.

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                • icon
                  Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:29pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                  "I'm sorry Karl, I don't buy your argument, and it seems I'm not alone here. All I want is my IP packets to travel unmolested over the tubes I paid for access to."
                  So you're ok then if Comcast doesn't let your new Roku or Playstation access certain content? They're still blocking access to content you pay for, they're just using a refusal to authenticate and an elaborate pile of bullshit instead of harming the packets.

                  The end result is the same. It's part of the same conversation.

                  You buy a Roku 3. You already pay for cable and HBO. You hook it up but just need Comcast servers to basically say "yes, he's a paying cable customer," something that's not a problem for every other ISP. But Comcast refuses to provide this for YEARS, never really telling you why. But the reason is they want you watching HBO content on THEIR X1 set top boxes and platforms.

                  You really don't see how this is at least related to the entire net neutrality debate?
                  Call Comcast and cancel your HBO if you don't like it.
                  Punishing HBO for what Comcast is doing doesn't really accomplish anything here.

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                  • icon
                    nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:27pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                    It's obvious this is a problem, but I don't think you've yet demonstrated that it's a NN problem. What if Comcast weren't even an ISP at all, but only a cable TV company? We could still have the exact same scenario, and would you still call it a net neutrality violation?

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                    • icon
                      Karl Bode (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 4:59am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                      Yes, if you've got an incumbent gatekeeper using its power to block consumer choice, I absolutely do consider it part of the net neutrality conversation. The only difference (again) is they're using authentication instead of throttling or blocking to limit consumer choice.

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                  • icon
                    John Fenderson (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:29pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                    "So you're ok then if Comcast doesn't let your new Roku or Playstation access certain content?"

                    I'm not saying that OK. I'm saying that isn't, and shouldn't be, part of "net neutrality". It should be handled as a separate issue entirely.

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                    • icon
                      Karl Bode (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:01am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                      Why? It's a clever end around of net neutrality logic by ISPs. Just like interconnection is an extension of the net neutrality debate to the edge of the network, this is an attempt at the same end goals simply using a refusal to authenticate. It's all part of the conversation regarding giant ISPs abusing their market position to limit choice!

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                  • identicon
                    Hans, 5 Mar 2015 @ 3:00pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                    You buy a Roku 3. You already pay for cable and HBO. You hook it up but just need Comcast servers to basically say "yes, he's a paying cable customer," something that's not a problem for every other ISP. But Comcast refuses to provide this for YEARS, never really telling you why. But the reason is they want you watching HBO content on THEIR X1 set top boxes and platforms.

                    You seem to be showing quite a sense of entitlement. You bought all these things, and then you seem to believe in a "right" that they work the way you want them to. And further, that someone else should be compelled to make that happen. And your main justification is that you paid for them, and other companies have chosen to make it happen, so Comcast should be forced to do it too.

                    Punishing HBO for what Comcast is doing doesn't really accomplish anything here.

                    It's called "voting with your wallet". If you don't like the service, don't buy it. I don't buy your claim that HBO is a victim here, and you've provided little evidence of it. When they start losing business, perhaps they'll consider other business arrangements.

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                    • icon
                      Karl Bode (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 4:55am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                      "You seem to be showing quite a sense of entitlement."
                      Yes, wanting to be able to access content I pay for, via bandwidth I pay for, using a piece of hardware I own. What a brat. :)
                      "It's called "voting with your wallet". If you don't like the service, don't buy it."
                      And if Comcast is my only TV/broadband service and I want to use my Roku to access HBO Go service I pay for?
                      " I don't buy your claim that HBO is a victim here, and you've provided little evidence of it."
                      Nowhere do I claim HBO is the victim. The consumer is the victim.

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                      • icon
                        nasch (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 6:12am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                        Yes, wanting to be able to access content I pay for, via bandwidth I pay for, using a piece of hardware I own.

                        I think his point is that just because you bought a Roku doesn't mean Comcast should have to support it. The problem really is not Comcast, it's the fact that your only option is Comcast.

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                  • identicon
                    Hans, 5 Mar 2015 @ 3:18pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                    The end result is the same. It's part of the same conversation.

                    I wholeheartedly disagree. If HBO provided an internet service that I could buy without being a cable subscriber, and Comcast tried to fiddle with that, it would be the same thing.

                    Here's the thing. If we want to really solve the neutrality problem, we need to disaggregate or unbundle the content from the delivery. HBO Go and TV Everywhere are simply ways to keep the old model working "on the internet". If we really want the freedom I think you're asking for, the old model needs to go. Then Comcast will be stuck delivering my unfettered bits and I can pick and choose the content I'm interested in rather than the whole "premium bundle" with tons of crap I don't want.

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                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 3:36pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                      Just in case that first paragraph isn't clear, it should say "If HBO provided an internet content service that I could buy without being a cable content subscriber..."

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:48am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Neutral networks

                Tommy Wheeler came up with fast lanes, not ISPs.

                Zero rated apps sound great.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 6:58am

    thye answer is obvious, i would have thought. they want more money from customers and a dollar to a dime, one of the ultra dummies in Congress will introduce some new bill to bring measures into law that gives Comcast what they want, just because it will be an arrow at Wheeler and the FCC!

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:30am

      Re:

      They're not dummies: they know exactly what they're doing. They spend all their time in Congress fighting to get more money for Comcast, and then when their term's up they've already got cushy jobs lined up at Comcast.

      Why not work to increase the profits of the company that's going to be paying your salary in a few years?

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  • icon
    Dave Cortright (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:26am

    The stand-alone HBO subscription can't come soon enough

    Nothing like a little competition to put Comcast back in their place. The fuckery stops when consumers have other viable options.

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    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:38am

      Re: The stand-alone HBO subscription can't come soon enough

      Absolutely. HBO Now will thankfully take Comcast out of the equation completely.

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      • identicon
        Michael, 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:14am

        Re: Re: The stand-alone HBO subscription can't come soon enough

        Until they route all of the traffic through a single backbone router so it doesn't have enough bandwidth to reliably stream anything.

        To reduce "network collisions", of course.

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:55am

          Re: Re: Re: The stand-alone HBO subscription can't come soon enough

          Running all traffic through a single router would increase network collisions, not decrease them.

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      • icon
        tqk (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 1:09pm

        Re: Re: The stand-alone HBO subscription can't come soon enough

        So, what did Comcast get out of this obfuscatory exercise? As now all those frustrated consumers can go direct to HBO and ignore an obstructionist middleman, does Comcast lose anything other than customer satisfaction? Does their bottom line take a hit? What does Comcast's CEO tell their shareholders? "Good news! We managed to burn the building down before anybody else could, woohoo! We rock!"

        What's to stop them from pulling this "technical difficulty" crap in the future when they'd just rather not live up to their customers' expectations?

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  • icon
    Chadda (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:56am

    I'm Glad

    Hopefully this brings another strong proprietor to Net Neutrality, and exposes to those who keep saying "It's big bad Netflix, not the poor ISP's fault."

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  • icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:15am

    Hay HBO, you do know you can get around this problem, and any future problems that WILL come up, by not requiring an HBO subscription. Just charge a little more for the untethered service and boom, Comcast doesn't have you by the balls (or other delicate body parts) and you get a boost in paying customers.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:16am

    Net Neutrality...

    So is Comcast blocking HBO Go TCP/UDP traffic? Or is Comcast simply not implementing some specific-to-HBO protocol? Network traffic, or a service?

    If HBO Go requires no work on Comcast's part to implement then it is simply network traffic, and Comcast should not interfere. Same as supporting BitTorrent traffic, or passing any other bits along.

    On the other hand, if implementing HBO Go requires Comcast do something specific to make it work, it falls outside of Net Neutrality issues in the same way that blackberry app development/support does.

    And on the gripping hand, if Comcast is not supporting some standard network service incidentally used by HBO Go, then we can ridicule their half-arsed internet implementation.

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    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:22am

      Re: Net Neutrality...

      HBO Go requires a subscription to HBO on a participating cable provider. So yes, Comcast has to do something on their end to activate the service. They aren't blocking people from activating HBO Go on a tablet, for example, they're just blocking activation on a PS4. This tells me that they activate by device, not by user. Basically, a dumb ass implementation designed for this exact reason. So they can be dicks to people who don't want to live on Comcast's time table.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:02am

        Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

        Does this mean that every internet-connected "device" of any kind that you have behind your router must (somehow) not only be seen by Comcast, but approved and registered by Comcast?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:35am

          Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

          Likely they are blocking the traffic itself coming across the network. The network I support has an internet filter that can recognize secure traffic and stop it. For example, it won't be able to tell what is in the traffic but it can recognize that facebook is being access over https and stop the connection.

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        • icon
          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

          Simple answer: No.

          The difference with HBO Go is due to how the app authenticates itself. The app goes out to Comcast and authorizes that the service has an active HBO subscription before going to HBO Go to stream. For reasons that I don't fully understand, this is done on a per device basses.

          The PS4 app has a different signature than the Android app or any other version of the app. There's a database of valid signatures somewhere that Comcast looks at to see if the app your using is real or some third party, unauthorized thing. Comcast has decided that they're not going to update their database of signatures, so the PS4's app is considered to be fake and, thus, denied.

          The easier way to do that is for Comcast to provide an authentication code that HBO Go can use to authenticate a user. Then, any app that logs in with that username and password can access the service. HBO would keep that authentication code and every now and again check with Comcast to make sure the code is still valid. HBO would then be responsible for keeping track of what apps are authorized or not, but that should be HBO's problem anyways.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

            Thank you for the excellent explanation. Hopefully Mr. Bode will update this article (and improve future ones) to make sure that readers understand (assuming the information is true) that this is definitely not a "classic" network-neutrality-type violation -- which he seemed to hint at somewhat in his previous article:

            "I'm not sure you can get away with calling this a net neutrality violation"

            https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140305/14254626446/comcast-still-blocking-hbo-go-roku- now-playstation-3-incapable-explaining-why.shtml

            It's great that Techdirt has such an informed commenting community to fill us in on the gaps, omissions, and/or misleading ambiguities in the article. Otherwise, those of us who don't already understand how HBOGo works might all be left scratching our heads wondering -- or left with a completely wrong impression.

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            • icon
              Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:39am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

              Dear mister anonymous commenter accusing me of being "misleading." From my article:
              " Every other broadband provider had no problem ensuring the back-end authentication (needed to confirm you have a traditional cable connection) worked, but not Comcast. When pressed, Comcast would only offer a generic statement saying yeah, it would try and get right on that.
              Whether they're outright blocking the service, or intentionally lagging on getting authentication to work (when again, it works for every other major ISP) the end result is the same: Comcast is actively working to prohibit consumers from using hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for to access the services they want. I absolutely believe this sort of behavior fits under the net neutrality umbrella.

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              • icon
                nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:51am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

                Comcast is actively working to prohibit consumers from using hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for to access the services they want.

                No, they're passively doing that. This is a result of their inaction, not action.

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                • icon
                  Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 11:05am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

                  Again, semantics to me. I guess we can say they're passively, actively engaged in anti-competitive behavior if it makes people feel somehow better. :)

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                • icon
                  Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 1:30pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

                  "No, they're passively doing that. This is a result of their inaction, not action."

                  Verizon's inaction in upgrading their nodes and screwing Netflix was still considered a net neutrality issue.

                  This shows that Net Neutrality is far more complicated than an ISP actively degrading or blocking a service.

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                  • icon
                    Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 1:33pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

                    Thank you! Precisely. The game and debate has shifted as ISPs have moved their shenanigans to the edge of the network and elsewhere.

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                  • icon
                    nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:28pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

                    Verizon's inaction in upgrading their nodes and screwing Netflix was still considered a net neutrality issue.

                    I didn't say it's not a NN issue because it's passive. I think it's not a NN issue for other reasons, I was just pointing out that the problem here is Comcast not doing something, rather than Comcast doing something.

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                • icon
                  techflaws (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:07pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

                  They're actively refusing to do what's necessary.

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              • icon
                mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 6:24am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

                You say every major ISP, but you mean every major TV provider. For example, DirecTV is not an ISP, but is a TV provider. You can authenticate your DirecTV TV subscription on your Comcast Internet connection.

                You're free to believe it, but there's no regulation about being incorrect.

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        • icon
          nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:59am

          Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

          Does this mean that every internet-connected "device" of any kind that you have behind your router must (somehow) not only be seen by Comcast, but approved and registered by Comcast?

          Not necessarily, though they might be doing that. All that's necessary is that the device send authentication data to Comcast. I assume Comcast then forwards the authentication response to HBO (they wouldn't want to rely on the client to do it, or it would be too easy to circumvent their control). What Comcast is doing with the data other than authenticating I couldn't say.

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        • icon
          swattz101 (profile), 11 Mar 2015 @ 12:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality...

          Yes, it appears every device needs to be approved and registered. Looking at the help page for the XFinity TV Go App, a Comcast customer is allowed up to 3 simultaneous streams. I haven't looked at the HBOGo app in a while, but I see references to authorize devices in their Help page also.
          I assume this is their way of blocking you from giving your password out to multiple friends.

          And it's not just for devices behind your router, I can access streaming content from either XFinity GO or HBO GO from anywhere.

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  • identicon
    Whoever, 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:19am

    This isn't a net neutrality issue

    We should be clear -- this isn't a net neutrality issue. This is an issue of authentication. Comcast isn't providing the necessary authentication services so that the PS4s and other boxes can check that the user has a valid cable account with HBO.

    As other have stated, the solution is to drop HBO through Comcast and pick up an unbundled HBO subscription when it is offered later this year. Comcast is shooting itself in the foot here.

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    • identicon
      jackn, 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:36am

      Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

      Are these authentication methods implemented in such a way to NOT employ TCP or UDP?

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:01am

        Re: Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

        That's not relevant. NN is about moving packets without prejudice based on who is doing the moving. If the packets used for authentication are being fairly moved to authentication servers and those servers deny the authentication, that's something that has absolutely nothing to do with NN.

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        • icon
          Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:37am

          Re: Re: Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

          I still believe it does have to do with net neutrality. If a core component of net neutrality is a company using its size and power to prevent people from using hardware and broadband connections as they see fit, why wouldn't it be? Interconnection and usage caps are considered part of the conversation, why not this?

          Just because Comcast is using the authentication process -- and not an outright throttle or filter -- to accomplish this shouldn't matter.

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          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

            "If a core component of net neutrality is a company using its size and power to prevent people from using hardware and broadband connections as they see fit, why wouldn't it be?"

            That's not a core component of net neutrality. The core component of net neutrality is that everyone's packets should be treated the same. That's where it starts and ends.

            "Just because Comcast is using the authentication process -- and not an outright throttle or filter -- to accomplish this shouldn't matter."

            I think it matters a lot. I am supremely uncomfortable telling businesses who they can or cannot do business with (which is what the HBO Go thing boils down to).

            That's a lot different than enforcing the notion that ISPs shouldn't play favorites with data packets.

            I understand your point, that Comcast isn't playing fair with HBO Go. I agree, even. But that's a problem of a different type and scope from net neutrality.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Karl Bode (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:03am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

              "The core component of net neutrality is that everyone's packets should be treated the same. That's where it starts and ends."
              You're going to find that's too narrow of a definition as the conversation evolves and carriers get increasingly clever. By that logic, interconnection won't really be part of the conversation either, since all packets are being treated the same -- Verizon and friends are just demanding payment out at the edge of the network.

              Just because they use different network-related mechanisms to reach the same goals doesn't somehow mean it's not part of the same conversation.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Zonker, 6 Mar 2015 @ 12:33pm

          Re: Re: Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

          But Comcast is treating packets differently here. They already provide authentication for the HBO Go app on tablets and phones, but are rejecting authentication for the same app on a different device (PS3/4 & Roku). The only difference here is the device sending the packets requesting authorization.

          Thus, this very much is a network neutrality issue as packets for the same app on different devices are being handled differently by an ISP (Comcast). Comcast doesn't even have to be your ISP for your packets to be discriminated against, as you could have Comcast for TV service and Frontier for internet and you will still be denied authentication for your choice of device, not your choice of app.

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          • icon
            nasch (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 12:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

            Thus, this very much is a network neutrality issue as packets for the same app on different devices are being handled differently by an ISP (Comcast).

            No, they're being handled by a cable provider. Comcast also happens to be an ISP. This is very relevant from a high level perspective on why they're doing this and the impact it has, but it has nothing to do with these packets.

            Comcast doesn't even have to be your ISP for your packets to be discriminated against,

            1. Those aren't your packets, they're directed to Comcast. 2. They're not being discriminated against, they're being delivered as normal.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 12:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This isn't a net neutrality issue

            No, there are no packets being treated differently. The packets never originate. Comcast never gave Sony access to the authentication server to do HBO Go. Comcast just isn't on the list of providers you can choose from.

            Very much *not* network neutrality.

            You make my point without acknowledging it. Comcast couldn't possibly interfere with packets on someone else's network and it still doesn't work. That means it's nothing to do with Net Neutrality.

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  • identicon
    Doodmonkey, 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:48am

    not blocking tcp/udp

    How HBO go works is if you have a valid account and login with your existing TV provider you can log into HBO GO. Comcast is not tied into the system that allows this login to work. So technically they're not blocking anything, they just never setup their account logins to transfer to HBO GO.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:25am

      Re: not blocking tcp/udp

      If that's the case, then it seems that HBO Go has appointed Comcast as a sort of middleman gatekeeper, rather than just delivering to the consumer directly by using a login and password -- something I had always assumed was the case.

      I've always loved reading Karl Bode's articles, but I think this one is missing some critical information, as it badly needs to at least briefly explain how HBO Go's setup works. Otherwise, many people might get the mistaken impression that Comcast is once again forging packets or other shenanigans that the service has been caught doing in the past to block services such as Bittorrent.

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      • icon
        nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:00am

        Re: Re: not blocking tcp/udp

        If that's the case, then it seems that HBO Go has appointed Comcast as a sort of middleman gatekeeper,

        That is exactly what's happening. Not just Comcast of course, but you have to have a cable/sat HBO subscription from somebody.

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        • icon
          Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:41am

          Re: Re: Re: not blocking tcp/udp

          Though it's again worth noting only Comcast wasn't able to get authentication working immediately. Roku owners were unable to use their device to access HBO GO for THREE YEARS.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2015 @ 6:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: not blocking tcp/udp

            How come these ISPs don't support linux? If you call tech support to trouble shoot, you must have an MS box or they can't help you.

            I should be able to control my hardware the way I want to. Right Sony?

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            • icon
              tqk (profile), 7 Mar 2015 @ 7:45pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: not blocking tcp/udp

              How come these ISPs don't support linux? If you call tech support to trouble shoot ...

              ... their HellDesk will desperately attempt to understand what language you're speaking, then try to find the relevant responses canned for them into the support database (note they may not even be native English speakers, but this needn't be a problem).

              Linux (Unix) users long ago learned it was up to themselves to learn and understand what they need to know to make things happen. I don't expect Win*/Apple types to understand Linux/Unix technical minutia ("ifconfig? Don't you mean ipconfig?"), not when all they have to work with is GUI wizards wrapping the complexity (good for them; feature!), backed up with corporate massaged-for-mere-users "Help".
              I should be able to control my hardware the way I want to. Right Sony?

              Yes, you should. Well, you ought to be able to, but Sony's a special case of thieves. I prefer to not give my hard earned cash to vendors who presume the right to re-write the deal after the sale. You thought you were buying mere hardware, and they presumed you were buying into "The Sony Way." Your mistake, or "just don't buy from those who pull !@# like that!".

              It is quite easy to work with both MS and Apple tech support if you understand their limitations. You may need to throw away most of what they say and dredge for details, but they can both be useful, even if they appear to have no clue as to what's going on at the moment.

              TL;DR: if you're a Linux/Unix user, you know what you're doing, no sympathy if you don't. It's not others' fault if it doesn't work. It's yours.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re: not blocking tcp/udp

        If people get the impression that Comcast is once again engaging in shenanigans, it's hardly mistaken no matter what the story.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Zonker, 6 Mar 2015 @ 12:47pm

      Re: not blocking tcp/udp

      Actually, Comcast is tied into the system that allows HBO Go logins to work on phones and tablets. The HBO Go app works fine with Comcast on these devices, meaning they have the authentication protocol for HBO Go in place and functional.

      What they are doing now is rejecting the same authentication requests from the same HBO Go app using the same protocol if they happen to originate from a different device such as the PS3/4 or Roku.

      Therefore, Comcast is choosing to accept or reject login requests based on what device sent the request rather than the HBO Go app itself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 8:52am

    "Prioritize" is the current-day trendy word. Just as "monetize" was a few years, until it became associated with violating privacy or trust.

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  • identicon
    jackn, 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:33am

    "With every new website, device or player we authenticate, we need to work through technical integration and customer service which takes time and resources. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize as we partner with various players."

    Hum, i guess this is why we need net neutrality. Comcast should not be authenticated each new website, device or player. Additionally, the 'players' should not have to 'partner' with comcast in order for their websites, devices, or players to work on the FUCKING INTERNET.

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    • icon
      nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      This isn't really a net neutrality issue, it's just how HBO has chosen to do business. If Comcast started messing with HBO Go traffic, that would be a neutrality issue, but that is not what's going on. They're changing things later this year, though we'll have to see exactly what the offering is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:44am

        Re: Re:

        No, it's not just "how HBO has chosen to do business." The entire cable TV industry's TV Everywhere initiative only gives you access to oodles of Internet content if you can prove you're a traditional cable TV subscriber.

        In this case, Comcast was the only company that couldn't be bothered (quite intentionally) to get relatively simple authentication systems up and running. They're using authentication as an intentional obstacle, preventing its customers from accessing the content they want on hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The entire cable TV industry's TV Everywhere initiative only gives you access to oodles of Internet content if you can prove you're a traditional cable TV subscriber.

          And you're saying that should be illegal?

          They're using authentication as an intentional obstacle, preventing its customers from accessing the content they want on hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for.

          What is your definition of net neutrality?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 11:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "And you're saying that should be illegal?"
            TV Everywhere is stupid, not illegal. To me, failing to authenticate so users can't use hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for to reach content they pay for is anti-competitive. Whether it's specifically illegal is irrelevant to me in this case, as Comcast has undue influence over law, or regulators haven't yet figured out what Comcast's doing.
            "What is your definition of net neutrality?"
            To me, net neutrality is about making sure incumbent gatekeepers from abusing their positions of market power to prevent consumers from gaining access to the content and services of their choice. Here, again, Comcast is using their failure to get a simple authentication system up and running so that users are more likely to stick with traditional Comcast set top boxes and traditional HBO.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 10:46am

    Comcast wants more money! Comcast SMASH!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 11:10am

    This has nothing to do with net neutrality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      Yes, it does.

      It doesn't matter whether Comcast is using de-prioritized packets, blocking, or intentionally refusing to authenticate users, the end result is the same: they're using their gatekeeper power to keep people OFF of other platforms, and ON their platforms. It's all one giant conversation. And if the net neutrality rules include interconnection, usage caps, zero rated apps and other shenanigans, I believe this kind of trickery is part of the dialogue.

      Or we can just ditch the term neutrality here and use "anti-competitive behavior" if the semantics bother people so much.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:31pm

        Re: Re:

        Or we can just ditch the term neutrality here and use "anti-competitive behavior" if the semantics bother people so much.

        I don't think anyone would argue with that term.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:36pm

        Re: Re:

        "we can just ditch the term neutrality here and use "anti-competitive behavior""

        I think this would be an excellent idea, since that's what's really being discussed here. NN is a tiny subset of that larger scope.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2015 @ 9:39am

        Re: Re:

        It doesn't matter whether Comcast is using de-prioritized packets, blocking, or intentionally refusing to authenticate users, the end result is the same: they're using their gatekeeper power to keep people OFF of other platforms
        But it does matter. HBO could tell people to stop paying Comcast $10/month (e.g.) and pay $8/month directly to HBO for online access. Or they could allow access to all Comcast IPs. IOW, Comcast would be pushing people OFF their TV platform onto other ones—probably a good thing as cable TV's been unsalvagable for years (c.f. cord cutting). We're long past the point for conversations about "cable TV neutrality"; let that platform die, and use the internet instead.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        swattz101 (profile), 11 Mar 2015 @ 1:00pm

        Re: Re:

        Just to add my 2¢, I agree with others, Anti-competitive, not Net Neutrality.

        The part I don't like is forcing content through Comcast's platform. I'm still a little sore at them for not providing PAC12 sports Network to customers on the much of the East Coast. And even if the did, you have to access online streams through Comcast while every other Cable Company just authenticates and then lets the stream come direct from the PAC12 Network webpage.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    oof, 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:00pm

    What everyone here is missing is that this is hardware specific. Comcast allows you to watch HBO Go on Xbox and Apple TV but not PlayStation or Roku. They are intentionally sabotaging the app for specific hardware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:22pm

    Karl, you've made some excellent comments here (and thank you for doing so) explaining how Comcast's actions are a de facto network neutrality violation. But as many people (obviously) fail to read previous comments before making posts that have already been answered (often numerous times over) it's kind of painful to see you having to repeat yourself so many times, when revising the original article to include these arguments might have been much less work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:33pm

      Re:

      Thanks. Yes, clearly I needed to explain some of this better, though the older article I wrote and linked to does some of this.

      I repeat myself because this is something that's important to understand as the net neutrality debate moves forward. ISPs know they can't throttle or block content, so they're going to start getting more creative. More creative, elaborate bullshit excuses are going to be built trying to defend anti-competitive behavior using pretty flimsy, faux-technical justifications.

      People all insisting this isn't a net neutrality violation simply because they're using a different mechanism to the same end is really only beneficial to Comcast.

      If semantics are really the issue we can just call this "anti-competitive behavior" and not a pure net neutrality violation, but it's part of the neutrality conversation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    lars626, 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:29pm

    Like a railroad

    Many years ago the railroads were having trouble making money. Some of them were able to turn the situation around. A comment made at the time was "they spent to much time worrying about their trains and forgot that they were really in the transportation business".

    Same thing with many ISPs. They don't seem to understand that they are in the transportation business. They move data from point A to point B. Why is that so hard to understand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:30pm

    Again - this has nothing to do with Net Neutrality.

    It has entirely to do with Content Rights and Agreements and business models around them.

    You could make an argument that it's anti-competitive, but that would be a stretch in this case.

    These examples are closer to this issue than a discussion about violations of net neutrality:
    The Showtime Anytime app does not run on the PlayStation 4.
    There is no non-jailbroken version of an iOS Grooveshark app.

    Companies pay a lot of money to acquire content rights. The spend is directly related to a business model. Of course they want to make a profit. Duh. They want to protect their investment.

    There's a lot of misinformation and hysteria around Comcast and net neutrality and a tendency to jump right to "they're blocking my _fill-in-the-blank_"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:32pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 1:53pm

    Where's that shining customer service they're constantly praising themselves for?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 1:56pm

    >Comcast [...]

    WELL THERE'S YOUR PROBLEM!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:23pm

    This screenshot shows what happens when you try to log into HBO Go and go to "Select Your HBO TV Provider" -- Comcast is missing from the list of supported ISPs.

    http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--EuEWs6WO--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/ svulzaoqhy6gp1rkefcc.png

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:28am

    I don't know the details behind HBO Go on PS4 on Comcast. However...

    ESPN 3 (or 360 or whatever) isn't available on many ISPs including mine and I'm not blocking a thing. ESPN charges ISPs for access to their service and as a business decision, I (and many others) don't pay them for that access. I have to pay for every subscriber I have to access ESPN 3, whether they will ever use it or not.

    That's the Net Neutrality I care about... content providers forcing me to pay for their garbage just like the cable TV subscription model.

    There's not enough evidence here to say what's going on., but Comcast hasn't blocked anything yet, so I'll reserve my decision until someone technical reports on the issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      mhammett (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 5:28am

      Re:

      Okay, this has nothing to do with their Internet service. If you had Comcast TV and AT&T Internet, it still wouldn't work. Comcast's servers that authenticate with HBO to determine if you're an eligible subscriber haven't completed the integration work. This may very well be intentional on Comcast's behalf, but has nothing to do with their Internet service and therefore has jack shit to do with Net Neutrality.

      If you had DirecTV service and Comcast Internet, I bet it would work just fine.

      If you had an HBO subscription directly with HBO, you could do this on Comcast.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Schume, 7 Mar 2015 @ 8:26pm

        Re: Re:

        Perhaps the confusion is that Comcast's ISP or cable services are not the only angle at net non-neutrality, and Comcast isn't the only one. As an example, extracted from the following 2013 article:

        "The three companies that mutually own Hulu — 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal — said Friday that instead of selling the pioneering streaming video Web site, they would make a new investment of $750 million and use Hulu’s technology to compete against other online distributors like Netflix..The companies have clashed repeatedly over Hulu for years; meanwhile, the third owner, NBC Universal, has been a silent partner since being acquired by Comcast in early 2011. ( At that time the government barred Comcast from being involved in Hulu’s business affairs, for fear that it would try to impose restrictions on Hulu to protect its core cable business.)"

        http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/13/business/media/owners-of-hulu-call-off-sale-and-plan-to -invest-750-million.html?_r=0

        Comcast was an original distribution partner at Hulu's start in 2007.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fairuse (profile), 10 Mar 2015 @ 1:35pm

    The victim - HBO & Comcast & the public

    The only thing you have to know is - content suppliers drive the bus.

    I watched hulu and Fancast (became Xfinity) from the beginning. The owners of the content had to be dragged into internet streaming with force. They fought back with DRM, device selection, authorization methods and all the stuff we never hear.

    You can bet both HBO and Comcast have a huge fight on every device and platform CONTENT is displayed. I get it a playstation or xxx box should be allowed to display CONTENT without restriction. Not going to happen until a legal contract between device manufacturer and CONTENT providers happen.

    Maybe we should get Sony (Viacom) to explain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fairuse (profile), 10 Mar 2015 @ 2:03pm

    PS - Hollywood is messing up

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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