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AT&T Slingbox 3G Fine Print Returns...
Modified TOS language still targets place shifting...
by Karl Bode 03:44PM Wednesday Apr 29 2009
Earlier this month, AT&T modified their 3G terms of service to seemingly ban Slingbox functionality to "any mobile device" across their HSDPA wireless broadband network. Less than a week later, the company informed us that those changes were made "in error." The AT&T 3G TOS were again changed last night or this morning (ChangeDetection.com is a handy tool to track such changes), this time using more concise language. This new (or reconfigured) language prohibits place shifting from devices like a Slingbox to "personal computers" via the AT&T 3G network. Changes in bold, according to ChangeDetection.com:
quote:
While most common uses for Intranet browsing, email and intranet access are permitted by your data plan, there are certain uses that cause extreme network capacity issues and interference with the network and are therefore prohibited. Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation . . .downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, redirecting television signals for viewing on Personal Computers, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices....
Obviously AT&T wants to protect their wireless network from heavy video use, though you'd think that their 5GB monthly cap and per byte overages do a pretty good job of that already. The timing for a video crackdown is strange, given their marketing department probably wants to emphasize the "next-gen" video capability of their 3G network ahead of a new video-centric iPhone launch in June.

To handle the flood of iPhone video, AT&T's supposedly engaged in a new round of HSPA upgrades, which should boost downstream speeds to 7Mbps initially, and then past 20Mbps before the carrier makes the leap to LTE technology. Such infrastructure improvements would seemingly help the network be more friendly to video, yet the TOS changes imply the opposite. Ah, the chasm between telecom lawyer and network engineer.

The changes could be intended to cover AT&T's legal posterior against the growing number of laptop connect users who seemingly have trouble understanding that AT&T's 3G services come with a relatively low cap and per-byte fees. These users generally react poorly to 3G data bills that require taking out a second mortgage. Or perhaps the language was changed to prohibit laptop connect customers from hosting place shifted content.

We've reached out to AT&T again to better understand the motivation for the changes.

Update: AT&T tells us that there was language added to the TOS, but the wording added was pulled from an older version of their terms of service. The company had no comment on what specifically the language is intended to prevent, or why it's necessary when the company already imposes low caps and overages on 3G users. You wouldn't think that a truly next-generation network would require legal fine print that bans everything next-gen.

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bshelly
Premium
join:2002-02-17
Conover, NC

2 edits

OMG, AT&T, you stink.

AT&T, WTF??? It is way past the time for wireless companies to realize that 5GB caps are a complete joke.
Chaldo

join:2008-03-18
West Bloomfield, MI

Re: OMG, AT&T, you stink.

Yea this sucks, maybe they will change it when the iphone comes out.
jwillisbarri

join:2005-03-22
Barrie, ON
Since the issue seems to be the data overages. Why not cut it off at the limit of 5GB and send a text message saying you have reached your limit of 5GB. If you wish to pay $___ please enter your account PIN now to purchase an additional 1GB. JW

Rob
In Deo speramus.
Premium
join:2001-08-25
Kendall, FL
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: OMG, AT&T, you stink.

said by jwillisbarri:

Since the issue seems to be the data overages. Why not cut it off at the limit of 5GB and send a text message saying you have reached your limit of 5GB. If you wish to pay $___ please enter your account PIN now to purchase an additional 1GB. JW
Because that would require them to actually be productive.
expert007

join:2006-01-10
Buffalo, NY
That is such a ridiculous idea. Wayyyy too simple and straightforward, and it might not alienate customers.

You *obviously* just don't get it.
k1ll3rdr4g0n

join:2005-03-19
Homer Glen, IL

Misunderstanding

@Karl

I think there is a slight misunderstanding in the story. I think AT&T is trying to protect it's laptop connect network, not the regular PDA/Cell phone/iPhone network. As a handset user you are likely to use less bandwidth than a laptop user simply because the screen is very small and the battery life isn't the greatest (conspiracy I tell you!) ESPECIALLY if you are streaming. I would propose you could maybe get 30 min constant 3G streaming on a cell phone (if you are lucky with a good battery), whereas a laptop could probably easily get 1hr+.

They don't care if people stream on their phones because the bandwidth draining wont last long, however, laptops are a different story.

en102
Canadian, eh?

join:2001-01-26
Valencia, CA

Re: Misunderstanding

said by k1ll3rdr4g0n:

I think AT&T is trying to protect it's laptop connect network, not the regular PDA/Cell phone/iPhone network.
I hate to break it to you... its the 'same' network.
If you have an iPhone plugged into a battery charger, you could stream video for as long as the charger keeps up. I do agree that this would be aimed at laptop users aiming to replace DSL/Uverse/Cable/FiOS with 3G, and assume there's no difference.
k1ll3rdr4g0n

join:2005-03-19
Homer Glen, IL

Re: Misunderstanding

said by en102:

said by k1ll3rdr4g0n:

I think AT&T is trying to protect it's laptop connect network, not the regular PDA/Cell phone/iPhone network.
I hate to break it to you... its the 'same' network.
If you have an iPhone plugged into a battery charger, you could stream video for as long as the charger keeps up. I do agree that this would be aimed at laptop users aiming to replace DSL/Uverse/Cable/FiOS with 3G, and assume there's no difference.
Actually there IS a difference, just not one that is widely known. I have been told by SEVERAL CSRs (I know I know, just listen to me) that the laptop connect cards use a wider band which can in theory use more bandwidth (which makes sense if you think about it). I mean, I guess you are right in saying its the same network, just not the same connection type.
Oh yeah and one of my mini laptops actually had the USB port powered while in standby, which in theory, could charge the phone while I am streaming away. But, I have noticed on some phones (notably the AT&T Tilt) that the charge wont be able to keep up with the amount of power that is needed for 3G (it will charge, but the battery will still get drained - albeit at a slower pace)(!) or it just would just stop charging due to the overheating of the unit (!!).

POB
Res Firma Mitescere Nescit
Premium
join:2003-02-13
Stepford, CA

1 edit

1 recommendation

Deathstar (AT&T)

Dear Consumer:

Buy our service but don't use it or else you'll face significant overages when you exceed our piddling caps.

Love always,
Deathstar Executive Management

PS: We need to have caps in place in order to be able to pay our executive officers six figure bonuses every quarter on top of their seven eight figure annual salaries.
--
The Toll

Tracking Lord Stanley
miscDude

join:2005-03-24
Kissimmee, FL

Hmm... am I reading this wrong?

redirecting television signals for viewing on Personal Computers
Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it sounds more like the wording is such that they are prohibiting using the connection to HOST the redirection of television signals, not receiving the data.

Especcially with the iphone app, a personal computer wouldn't be utilized at all since the slingbox is a stand-alone device, and the iphone isn't a PC in the traditional sense.

Now... a 3G datacard in a laptop is a different story, but even then I don't see it as redirecting the signal, but instead connecting to a signal that's already out there.

funchords
Hello
Premium,MVM
join:2001-03-11
Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

1 edit

Re: Hmm... am I reading this wrong?

said by miscDude:

redirecting television signals for viewing on Personal Computers
Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it sounds more like the wording is such that they are prohibiting using the connection to HOST the redirection of television signals, not receiving the data.
Maybe, but it doesn't really say that and it doesn't matter. If it's my 5 GB to use, why can't I use it as I see fit?

It isn't the Internet when the ISP can tell you what legal things you can and cannot do on it.
--
Robb Topolski -= funchords.com =- District of Columbia -- KJ7RL
miscDude

join:2005-03-24
Kissimmee, FL

Re: Hmm... am I reading this wrong?

LOL..... "Welcome to AT&T Wireless Internet! The Prodigy for the new generation!"

funchords
Hello
Premium,MVM
join:2001-03-11
Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

Re: Hmm... am I reading this wrong?

said by miscDude:

LOL..... "Welcome to AT&T Wireless Internet! The Prodigy for the new generation!"
EXACTLY!
--
Robb Topolski -= funchords.com =- District of Columbia -- KJ7RL

WOW

This is ludacris, i cant believe that ATT would attempt to do this again!!! I would grab your torch and pitchforks now and hope that once the contract is finished, that apple can go to a real company like verizon.
jmallory

join:2005-11-02
Essexville, MI

1 edit

Re: WOW

said by person12124 :

This is ludacris, i cant believe that ATT would attempt to do this again!!! I would grab your torch and pitchforks now and hope that once the contract is finished, that apple can go to a real company like verizon.
And what makes you think that Verizon won't? If I remember correctly...I believe Verizon already has language that forbids streaming media over their cellular network.

djrobx
Premium
join:2000-05-31
Valencia, CA
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·VOIPO
said by person12124 :

This is ludacris, i cant believe that ATT would attempt to do this again!!!
Wow, Ludacris reads BBR! Who knew he cared so much about mobile broadband. It's great to see the hip hop community becoming vocal about these important issues!

</sarcasm>

--
AT&T U-Hearse
Your funeral. Delivered.
miscDude

join:2005-03-24
Kissimmee, FL
...

"real company like VERIZON"

??

Are we talking about the same company that had the invisicap of 5gig for ages and marketted it as unlimited until they got slapped by a state AG?

The Same company that is notorious for it's walled garden mobile net experiences and crippled software on many phones?

The Same company that makes it near impossible to get a phone you didn't purchase from them (or their authorize retailers) on their network?

Assuming you are talking about "real company" in the recent American tradition of screwing over all the customers but making them not see it or care.... Then ya, I could maybe agree.
gmeltzer
Premium
join:2001-04-06
Englewood, NJ

Re: WOW

Yeah, and the same company that required RIM to disable WiFi on the BlackBerry Stoirm, so the carrier could wring every last f'in penny of airtime charges out of its hapless "customers".

narci

@204.50.7.x

App Store

And what happends when the slingplayer gets released into the app store for the iPhone?

TimSpencer

join:2001-05-18
Arvada, CO

Re: App Store

said by narci :

And what happends when the slingplayer gets released into the app store for the iPhone?
They'll limit the app to wi-fi use only (like skype).

»www.softsailor.com/news/1849-sli···dia.html

Why these companies keep spending millions to upgrade their networks that they ultimately don't want their customers to use is beyond me.
--
"Don't think Meat, it can only hurt the ballclub." - Crash Davis

insomniac84

join:2002-01-03
Schererville, IN

How are they protecting their network?

They have caps. Caps protect the network. All this does is prevent people from using non AT&T provided video.
33358088
Premium
join:2008-09-23
kudos:2

they dont give a fuck about you

havent you figured it out yet they dont give a shit about nothing but CASH, YOUR CASH.

1 recommendation

VPN

Setup a VPN, they won't know what you're doing with the 5GB you've already paid for (and secretly hope you'll only use it for 250k of text emails).

joako
Premium
join:2000-09-07
/dev/null
kudos:6

Unfair

I have a "business notebook" so that is not a problem for me, but poor people with the newer HPs that are "personal again."
--
PRescott7-2097

an att user

@sbcglobal.net

What cap?

What "5GB monthly cap" are you talking about? My 3G service is "unlimited".

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

Re: What cap?

I have a $62,000 Cell phone bill waiting for you.

Just use that unlimited plan as you vacation.
miscDude

join:2005-03-24
Kissimmee, FL

Re: What cap?

In all defense... There is a major difference between an "unlimited plan", and international roaming such as in that $62k bill case.

In case you never noticed, Those unlimited plans are usually marketed as a national unlimited dialing plan (or sometimes just regional..for older plans or smaller carriers). Last time I checked, Mexico and Canada aren't considered part of the USA, so you can't include them in a US "National" plan.
itguy05

join:2005-06-17
Carlisle, PA
So is mine. When I check the online bandwidth meter it says xxxKB of UNLIMITED...

TheTate

@buckeyecom.net

Encrypt it all.

This is exactly why all Internet traffic should be heavily encrypted. No one has any business looking at what you're transferring. As someone mentioned earlier, just set up a VPN. With these kinds of restrictions, I would also go ahead and transfer random files over and over at the end of the billing cycle until I reached my 5GB limit. If you're paying for it, make sure you use it.

- Tate

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

1 edit

Wow AT&T, you sure waited a long time.... NOT

.... Wonder if TWC can beat this record in reinstating their Caps plans.

AT&T couldn't even wait 6 weeks, let alone 6 months. This is proof that they intend to do whatever they wish, despite consumer or customer backlash.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

funchords
Hello
Premium,MVM
join:2001-03-11
Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

Back to the Past

Engadget points out that AT&T’s TOS has simply reverted to its former restricted glory. It’s true. Here is the history of the changes of that particular paragraph (the restrictive language is in ALL CAPS):

Prior (end of 2008):

…but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, REDIRECTING TELEVISION SIGNALS FOR VIEWING ON PERSONAL COMPUTERS, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited.

March 31st:

…but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, CUSTOMER INITIATED REDIRECTION OF TELEVISION OR OTHER VIDEO OR AUDIO SIGNALS VIA ANY TECHNOLOGY FROM A FIXED LOCATION TO A MOBILE DEVICE, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited.

April 4th:

…but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited.

April 29th:

…but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, REDIRECTING TELEVISION SIGNALS FOR VIEWING ON PERSONAL COMPUTERS, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited.

As we can see, AT&T has now re-restricted television signals as it had prior to March 31st. But, again, this is beside the main point: The Internet is about openness, not restricted-ness. Rather than playing with words, the whole paragraph should be taken out.

Robb Topolski
--
Robb Topolski -= funchords.com =- District of Columbia -- KJ7RL
pcause

join:2000-07-13
Burlington, MA

Misunderstanding of cell speeds versus tower capacity

I think there is a misunderstanding of what the network upgrades do. First, remember this is RADIO and not wired capacity. When AT&T upgrades, the 1MB or 5MB or 7Mb figures are total data capacity for a tower. If you are the only one accessing 3G data from the tower, you get close to the full speed. But the data bandwidth is a shared resource. If one person streams at 2Mbps, others get that much less bandwidth. In many urban areas you can't get full speeds because the data bandwidth is always shared. For web browsing and email this doesn't matter but for video it does.

On a wired net, we can get the full speed that our last mile connection offers if the ISP adds backbone capacity. On a wireless net it is more complicated. It is not easy to change the "last mile" because you have to upgrade the phones, radio technology used and the like. Then, each tower needs a land line that has capacity to handle the max data traffic for the tower. These upgrades are expensive and may mean digging up streets, running new able, etc. And finally, you need the backbone improvements.

All land line and mobile operators assume a contention factor. That is, they assume that they can sell 1Mbps to 100 people but not have 100Mbps of backbone because in the non-video world, we're all not using our 1Mbps all the time. Our pricing for Internet access is based on this assumption and if we were all always using our full capacity, the ISPs would need to do a big build out and raise our rates. This is why they hate video streaming and torrent/P2P traffic.

AT&T is both protecting their revenue by setting TOS to not allow streaming from a laptop through tethering (which is coming in 3.0) or through a laptop card. But, this also means that the 200 people in an area trying to get web access or email get some decent response.

AT&T *is* evil, but there is too much misunderstanding and FUD around the topic of speeds, bandwidth and what we can really reasonably expect.

axiomatic

join:2006-08-23
Tomball, TX

To Apple,

Apple,

It is becoming not worth it to own an iphone if ATT is not going to let me use it.

WTF Apple? Bust this door open.

--------
Slingmedia,

Time to go to court please. Someone (ATT) is hampering your revenue stream. Bust out the lawyers please.
kevinzak76

join:2001-03-30
Buffalo, NY

slingplayer

im gonna keep on using my slingplayer on my bold. i never hit 5GB of data in a month, and only watch in roughly 30 min to 1 hour increments once a day or so.