Comcast Apple TV talk prompts streaming skepticism

Chatter of an Apple deal with Comcast that would secure priority access for Apple TV streamed content has renewed speculation about a new set-top box and given stock prices a bump, but questions around net neutrality remain. Apple has reportedly been continuing the talks it began with Time Warner Cable with Comcast, which is set to acquire TWC, in the aim of avoiding last-mile congestion by using the same private connection the ISP itself uses for its own streaming media services.

Any deal, whispers of which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is said to be still some way off – if it arrives at all – and the exact details unclear. However, early analysis suggests that should Apple and Comcast in fact arrive at an agreement, it would not contravene existing net neutrality regulations.

In fact, Comcast already has a precedent, with its February agreement with Netflix that saw the on-demand media firm cough up for stable access to the ISP's customers. Only a month later Netflix was sniping at Comcast and others, arguing stronger net neutrality rules were necessary if the market wasn't to be hamstrung.

Meanwhile, both GigaOm and Bloomberg Businessweek argue that there's more than just leaked product plans to the story. The suggestion is that the claims have been well timed around Comcast's Time Warner Cable deal so as to bring further attention to the amount of control the ISP will subsequently have over "last mile" connections.

That could be a roundabout way of other players in the streaming space from highlighting that they too would like similar access, if the fairness net neutrality preaches is to be taken seriously.

Whether it gets priority access to Comcast (and Time Warner Cable) subscribers or not, multiple sources have suggested there's a new Apple TV fast incoming. Tipped to place a greater emphasis on interactive services like gaming, the new box could arrive as soon as April according to leaks from Best Buy.