Apple is in talks with U.S. cable operator Comcast about a streaming TV service,
according to reports. In the proposed service, content would reach customers via a
set-top box provided by Apple and would be given priority on Comcast’s network.
According to sources, the talks are in an early stage, and the parties are not yet
close to any agreement. In order for the service to be feasible, Comcast would need
to invest significantly in network equipment and other technology to support it. For
its part, Apple reportedly wants a share of monthly subscription fees and would
require customers to use Apple logins to access the service.
While any Comcast–Apple TV partnership is still a long way away from coming to
fruition, the very possibility of such a deal is intensifying the concerns of advocates
for net neutrality. The present talks come just a month after internet movie content
provider Netflix signed a deal with Comcast providing its signal with a quicker path
through the cable company’s network. Another element of the context is that the net
neutrality rules of the Federal Communications Commission—the U.S. regulator—
were struck down by a U.S. court in January, and therefore the regulator’s policy
with regard to the issue is currently uncertain. Even under the old rules, though, a
service like Apple’s could have been approved, because Apple reportedly proposed
that it be classified as a “managed service,” a category that includes VoIP calling
and video-on-demand and that is counted as separate from ordinary internet traffic.
If an Apple–Comcast deal were to be agreed upon, it would certainly attract careful
regulatory scrutiny because of the sheer size of the players, if for no other reason.
Comcast is the largest cable and broadband service provider in the U.S.