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Wireless Networking Communications Hardware

AT&T Changes TOS, Limits Streaming, Tethering 86

MojoKid writes "Just one day after announcing plans to subsidize netbooks, AT&T wised up to the fact that those netbooks and connections could be used to download movies and enjoy other bandwidth-intensive applications. Apparently trying to avoid bogging down their network, the company revised its data plan service terms to single out and prohibit '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, and web broadcasting...' The license agreement further prohibits tethering the device to PCs or other equipment. That's a pretty strict set of rules. After all, the new terms of service seems to limit applications such as SlingPlayer, Qik, Skype, and Jaikuspot, which many AT&T customers are currently using without issue." Update — April 4, 02:50 GMT by SS: Reader evn points out an Engadget report that AT&T quickly retracted the changes.
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AT&T Changes TOS, Limits Streaming, Tethering

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  • by evn ( 686927 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:04PM (#27454015)

    Engadget is saying the terms have already been retracted []

    The language added on March 30 to AT&T's wireless data service Terms and Conditions was done in error. It was brought to our attention and we have since removed it. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcr ( 53032 )

      Wow, that was quick. I'm very surprised that AT&T didn't even try to tough it out.


      • The nice thing about 'wireless broadband' is that every major carrier has its own version with fairly decent coverage. So it's a real possibility for people to say to a carrier with a stupid TOS, 'Screw you guys, I'm going to the competition.'
        • by jonwil ( 467024 )

          Tell that to all the people on Verizon Wireless who need service in any of the places (subway systems for example) where Verizon have paid large sums of money to ensure that they have a monopoly on service in that location.

      • Wow, that was quick. I'm very surprised that AT&T didn't even try to tough it out.

        AT&T executive's kid: "Waaaaah! You make me use AT&T! Waaaaah!"
        AT&T executive: "There, there, it must be just a mistake..."

      • AT&T is no longer the phone company. They're a phone company now. They have to care at least a little. For now.

      • Except their existing TOS already explicitly prohibit streaming audio and video over their network, even though they advertised viewing YouTube video's over their 2G network 2 years ago when the original iPhone debuted.

        • Funny thing is that, when giving the various plans, the selling point they list for the most expensive plans is the ability to download video and audio.

    • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:39PM (#27454241) Journal

      Perhaps they realised that people pay for Internet access so they can fucking well use it.

    • And... After all these years, I would have thought that Slashdot editors would have learned to be editors.

      Quote from the Slashdot story: " After all, the new terms of service seems to limit applications such as SlingPlayer, Qik, Skype, and Jaikuspot, which many AT&T customers are currently using without issue."

      It's JoikuSpot [], very interesting software that makes your 3G cell phone into a wireless provider. JaikuSpot [] seems to be some kind of Twitter.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by perryizgr8 ( 1370173 )

        It's JoikuSpot [], very interesting software that makes your 3G cell phone into a WLAN access point. JaikuSpot [] seems to be some kind of Twitter.

        • Okay. And why would I want to do that? (just curious)

          • it is a exactly like tethering except that a single 3g phone connection can be shared across many wifi laptops or phones.
            i use it mainly for reliable tethering, bluetooth is slow/buggy and i don't want to carry the usb cable.
          • To use your phone's internet connection on your laptop, without having wires and stuff all over the place?
        • Yes, "WLAN access point". But that's not the issue, is it? The issue is that the JoikuSpot software turns a 3G cell phone into a wireless internet access provider, that anyone can use. (That's my understanding; I haven't use the software.) Someone could get a 3G phone, use it to provide internet access to his entire apartment building, and charge for the access.
          • you're right, its just my bad habit of nitpicking. but "wireless provider" is just too vague for me. it turns your 3g phone into a wifi router.
            • Wireless access from a 3G phone allows a cafe owner to provide internet access to anyone in the cafe, and to anyone near the cafe. That's not what those who provide 3G phone service envisioned. I'm not sure it matters, but it is certainly different than just "phone service".
      • >>>I would have thought that Slashdot editors would have learned to be editors

        Well since you're being anal, I'm going to mirror that attitude and be anal too. The actual name of this software is an Asian pictogram, and therefore the English spelling is only an *approximation* of how it sounds, not the actual word (which is a symbol). And second, typing "jai" instead of "joi" appears to be a simple typo, not a capital offense.

        • I checked the facts, and discovered the error. That's what editors are supposed to do.
        • And second, typing "jai" instead of "joi" appears to be a simple typo

          What are editors for, if not correcting typos? Besides, it's been fairly solidly established that the "editors" at slashdot are nothing of the sort, but rather are analogous to trained chimps that have learned to click a "publish to front page" button.

    • How did we get to the point where telling absurdly transparent lies in public is normal and accepted? Is anybody seriously expected to believe that AT&T changed the TOS for one of their fairly major services by accident?

      "Well, yeah, the work experience kid really, really hates streaming video, and he slipped in some changes, and somehow they snuck past the entire legal department, and down to our web guys, and on to our website, y'know how it goes..."

      At most, a typo slipping through might be a mista
    • Bullshit... done in error... this is what they really wanted to do, but the public outcry spread like wildfire: users already see that the change in ToS provides them with the chance to get out of their contracts; and cooperatively agreements with video sharing sponsors like CBS ( app) and other would have caused significant loss in revenue, they wanted to take their foot out of their mouth as quickly as possible. All these freaking companies think that they can limit their services that they provide
      • Is that true? If a cell provider alters the contract, you can escape from your 2 or 3 year obligation?

        • Yea.... Because of the change in ToS, you have the option of escaping your contract, but you need to do that within 30 of the change of service. If you are planning on keeping the same cell phone company, they are not likely to let you get out of the contract and keep you in the service. However, if you are planning to change providers, it does provide an escape because they are altering the original contract and breaking such contract.
        • While there may be a clause in the TOS that allows you to end it without early termination fees (ETF), the CTIA Consumer Code is a more complete expression of your rights as a consumer. The code can be found at:


          and here:


          The seventh right is the one that says they'll let you out of the long term agreement if they change the TOS. The code may or may not have the legal weight of

  • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:05PM (#27454023) Homepage

    In AT&T's world, you can have unlimited access to the Internet, provided all you want to do is look at static web pages and check your email.

  • Don't use AT&T as your provider.

    • by MoFoQ ( 584566 )

      wow...tuff crowd...dunno how it's offtopic...the changes to the ToS was was reported as such on multiple sites.

      • You're right, the proper mod is -1 Redundant.

        • You're right, the proper mod is -1 Redundant.

          Or +1 Caught in the act?

          Didn't Microsoft try out the idea of limiting the number of times a copy of Vista could be installed until a lot of people objected?

          Pretty simple formula..
          Publish a "really pushing it" TOC revision.

          Observe reaction.

          If enough people complain and threaten to leave, push out revision 2 and claim horrible mistake. Otherwise, you got away with it.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:17PM (#27454119) Homepage Journal
    Is this the same slower-than-hell network the iPhone connects to? 'cause I got news for them, it's already bogged down. Perhaps they should worry less about the 3 guys who can be bothered to figure out how to tether their netbook and add some more pipes instead...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Perhaps they should worry less about the 3 guys who can be bothered to figure out how to tether their netbook and add some more pipes instead...

      I believe the correct term is "tubes".

    • ..or the management of the company that's rewarded by the shareholders when you discuss your silly little proposition to actually add value to AT&T's services.

      Adding pipes requires investing money. Invested money is money that can't be returned to the shareholders and more particularly can't be used to support positive evaluations of short-term management performance. So why, exactly, would anyone in charge of making decisions at AT&T feel any need whatsoever to invest in more bandwidth?

      And that's j

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sjames ( 1099 )

      I notice that all of the broadband providers advertise endless about how studly their network is while constantly whining to regulators about how it's coming apart under load.

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:17PM (#27454121) Journal

    First, yes, I know people have posted that ATT has already retracted this particular TOS.

    But, I have a more general question. When I sign a contract with any mobile company for service, shouldn't the TOS be fixed at that point? If ATT (or whoever the mobile co is) wants to require me to accept new TOS in the future, does that entitle me to get out of the contract without an early-termination fee?

    Seems to me that a contract where one party can change the terms at any time and I must accept those terms without being able to terminate the contract, is a pretty darn aweful contract. So aweful, I would think it would be illegal?

    • by Ceiynt ( 993620 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:19PM (#27454129)
      In general, yes, you can cancel your contract free of charge at that point.
      • In general, yes, you can cancel your contract free of charge at that point.

        So, if you want to speculate that as they see more of these devices on their network they'll be forced to introduce such terms, now would be the time to sign up.

    • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:20PM (#27454133) Homepage Journal

      Yes you have (typically) 30 days from when they change the TOS to terminate your contract at no charge. My friend and his GF both terminated their phone contracts to go with a third provider so they could talk to eachother for free based on the fact that they'd upped thier SMS fees three times in the last six months without giving them written notice. If you need to dump your provider jan-feb is the time to do it, which is when your TOS are usually changed. Only noobs pay early termination fees.

      • Only n00bs use credit based, per-month ripoff carriers.

        Despite their exasperatingly mostly-local coverage I've been really happy with, of all outfits, MetroPCS. For less than half of the cost of most people's "real" voice-plus-data plans I have unlimited talk, unlimited text, and unlimited data to my phone or to a tethered laptop. I have no contract and can give them the finger and take my CDMA phone (which I *own* thank you very much) to any other CDMA ("3G") carrier I like: Sprint, AT&T, Cingular,

        • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

          I wasn't going to pimp my carrier but whatever. I pay $64 and change (including taxes etc) for my T-Mobile account, which includes all inclusive Blackberry service, unlimited email (through blackberry), unlimited text and unlimited (for me, its actually 1000) minutes which can be tethered to a laptop as well. I can also take my quadband curve to any of the carriers you listed. Plus T-Mobile chipped in for something like half the cost of my blackberry. Its a fucking fantastic deal.

          Oh, and my phone wo

        • You can take your CDMA phone to Sprint, AT&T, or Cingular? That's a neat trick, considering AT&T and Cingular are the same company and that company has a GSM network.

          • by Macrat ( 638047 )
            The original poster is a little clueless as he claims to be on T-Mobile which is also GSM like ATT.
            • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

              In addition to GSM, it supports Dual-band 800/1900 Mhz CDMA2000 in addition to GSM. So I am correct and you sir, are wrong! You have egg on your face.

        • AT&T is now Cingular and they've shut off their CDMA network in favor of GSM. Your options at this point are likely just Sprint and those that use Sprint's network, like Virgin Mobile.

          • by maxume ( 22995 )

            Cingular is now part of AT&T. Prior to the Cingular deal, AT&T had some CDMA networks, but they have either sold them or turned them off.

            This seems to be what you mean, but you have phrased it oddly (for example, there isn't a Cingular anymore).

            • Here's the full corp-tree. Around 2002, there was AT&T Wireless, and there was Cingular, which was a joint effort between BellSouth and SBC Then SBC bought AT&T, and merged AT&T Wireless into Cingular, which was now a joint effort by AT&T and BellSouth. Then AT&T bought BellSouth, and they felt there was no need for the Cingular brand anymore, and Cingular became AT&T.
        • ATT and Cingular are one to being with... Second of all... ATT is a GSM based carrier, not CDMA. The AT&T 3G network uses HSDPA/UMTS technology.
    • by dfm3 ( 830843 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @11:23PM (#27454451) Journal
      Ever notice how just about every contract/eula has some statement to the effect of "we reserve the right to change these terms at any time without notice"? When that happens, you have the option of dropping the service at that point, but that's about it. Continuing to pay your bill after the company changes their terms is considered "acceptance" of the new terms.

      Of course, they'll do everything in their power to prevent you from noticing the changes while doing the bare minimum required to "notify" you. My credit card company is notorious for this. Whenever there's a change in the terms of service or interest rates, they mail you the notice as a tiny slip of paper with 5-point legalese text buried in an envelope that looks deceptively like a piece of junk mail, then cram the envelope full of glossy fliers advertising related "services" in hopes that you toss the whole thing out without giving it a second look.

      If you find out about a pending change and you want to get out of a service contract without any fees, that's the time to do so. Of course, I'm sure if they could legally keep you from backing out without a fee, they would.
      • by KWTm ( 808824 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @06:44AM (#27456375) Journal

        Ever notice how just about every contract/eula has some statement to the effect of "we reserve the right to change these terms at any time without notice"? ... Of course, they'll do everything in their power to prevent you from noticing the changes.

        Agreed! While I still haven't figured out what to do about such notices on paper, I decided to do something about the electronic equivalent where (for example) every time I pay my cell phone bill online, they have a tiny scrolling window with the Terms & Conditions (T&C) with the "accept" and "reject" buttons.

        Of course, if you don't actually check, you don't realize what a huge bunch of text there is within the tiny scrolling window. And since I pay the bill monthly, I'm not about to wade through all that text each time to see if they added a "and you owe us your first-born son" clause or something.

        I wrote a quick shell script to make a comparison. Now whenever such T&C text shows up, I select the text with my mouse and run the script, which pulls text from the clipboard and compares it to a bunch of text files in a directory (which contain T&C from various web sites, services, etc). It will identify which file contains the old version of the T&C, and check if there are any changes. If there are, it will alert you.

        So far I haven't found any service trying to sneak in changes yet, but I'm going to keep my guard up.

        If you're interested in the script, I put it in this entry in my journal []. Constructive criticism welcome. GPL.

    • In the credit card industry, if you don't agree to the change of service, the credit card company simply doesn't renew your contract when it expires.

  • by MojoKid ( 1002251 ) * on Saturday April 04, 2009 @12:46AM (#27454925)
    They may have said it has since been retracted but it looks still pretty much up there to me. []

    And they must have been pretty determined to spell it out, with all the legalese you see here, so I doubt it was an accident.

    Here's the text as it is still live on their site:
    Prohibited and Permissible Uses: Except as may otherwise be specifically permitted or prohibited for select data plans, data sessions may be conducted only for the following purposes: (i) Internet browsing; (ii) email; and (iii) intranet access (including access to corporate intranets, email, and individual productivity applications like customer relationship management, sales force, and field service automation). 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, the following: (i) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing; (ii) as a substitute or backup for private lines, landlines or full-time or dedicated data connections; (iii) "auto-responders," "cancel-bots," or similar automated or manual routines which generate excessive amounts of net traffic, or which disrupt net user groups or email use by others; (iv) "spam" or unsolicited commercial or bulk email (or activities that have the effect of facilitating unsolicited commercial email or unsolicited bulk email); (v) any activity that adversely affects the ability of other people or systems to use either AT&T's wireless services or other parties' Internet-based resources, including "denial of service" (DoS) attacks against another network host or individual user; (vi) accessing, or attempting to access without authority, the accounts of others, or to penetrate, or attempt to penetrate, security measures of AT&T's wireless network or another entity's network or systems; (vii) software or other devices that maintain continuous active Internet connections when a computer's connection would otherwise be idle or any "keep alive" functions, unless they adhere to AT&T's data retry requirements, which may be changed from time to time. This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, 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. Furthermore, plans(unless specifically designated for tethering usage) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection kits, other phone/PDA-to computer accessories, Bluetooth® or any other wireless technology) to Personal Computers (including without limitation, laptops), or other equipment for any purpose. Accordingly, AT&T reserves the right to (i) deny, disconnect, modify and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network, including without limitation, after a significant period of inactivity or after sessions of excessive usage and (ii) otherwise protect its wireless network from harm, compromised capacity or degradation in performance, which may impact legitimate data flows. You may not send solicitations to AT&T's wireless subscribers without their consent. You may not use the Services other than as intended by AT&T and applicable law. Plans are for individual, non-commercial use only and are not for resale. AT&T may, but is not required to, monitor your compliance, or the compliance of other subscribers, with AT&T's terms, conditions, or policies.
    • I think companies should be required to provide these changes of ToS to users in writing, whether it be electronically or physically, and require the user to approve on such changes, before such change becomes the de facto ToS.
    • AT&T may have simply jumped the gun, and might still intend to promulgate these TOS in the future.
      Remember how on more than one occasion the free AT&T wireless for iPhone at Starbucks / other hotspots was announced, then retracted as a mistake?

    • Considering how quickly the retraction was made, isn't it more likely that they're simply waiting for their lawyers to excise the right pieces without screwing up the rest of the ToS?

      This isn't just a quick sweep of the mouse followed by Backspace, here.

    • Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following:
      (ii) as a substitute or backup for private lines, landlines or full-time or dedicated data connections;

      Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this seem to imply that you *must also* have dedicated home telephone *and* data service or you're violating their TOS?

  • It's pretty simple. Dictating what customers can do with their Internet-connected computers when you are a pipe provider is a no-no. Don't go there.

    You shouldn't even by listening in anyway, perverts.

    If you need to charge differential monthly rates for different amounts of bandwidth used or available to differnet subscribers, then by all means create a tiered rate structure, and compete with competitors (like new wi-max services) on it.

    The Internet is an open and free and flexible worldwide connection of in

  • by syncrotic ( 828809 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @01:21AM (#27455125)

    I'm the first to argue that transfer caps on fixed broadband are bullshit: nothing but thinly-veiled attempts by cable companies to strangle video downloads in the hope of protecting their broadcast revenues.

    Might mobile broadband be a different story though? There's only so much data you can push through the air on a given frequency range with a given SNR... might it be that the cellular network can't support a significant number of video-downloading mobile users? It was, after all, designed to support voice calls at somewhere around 9.6kbit/s, with data capabilities grafted on as a bit of an afterthought.

    We'd all like a future in which cellular companies are generic wireless bit pipes, carrying voice, video, and everything else the internet has to offer at the best possible quality... but what kind of cellular network would it take to make that a reality? With the spectrum we have available, would we need a low-power cell on every street corner?

    • Bandwidth scarcity is not an excuse for this kind of behavior. Blocking individual applications and instituting usage caps in a non-negotiable way is nothing more than protectionism from companies with outdated business models. If bandwidth scarcity is the problem, the only real solution is charging per byte transferred. That way people who want to use more can do so by simply paying more (funding infrastructure improvements), while people who want to save money can reduce usage. Simple!

      The ISPs have no

  • Ultimately, the notion of unlimited use of any resource is unsustainable. Why should Internet bandwidth or cell phone minutes be any different? People will simply think of ways to use the resource more and more, as we have with the Internet with uses as varied as Twitter, which use the resource lightly, to streaming movies which gobble it up.

    If AT&T and other Internet and mobile phone providers simply charged a reasonable rate per GB in addition to a fixed per account administrative fee to cover per acc

  • for this to be an issue. I tether and pull about 5GB/mo from my non-tether-plan iPhone, mostly web but some video, music, etc. I know several people who do this as well. None of us have ever run into any trouble from this...

    My view is that they don't care that much, and they include the clause so that if somebody is using it as their primary internet connection, or otherwise fucking around (hosting Slingbox or something through it) they can cut them off.

    IMHO, the person using Skype - even a few times a day

  • Regulation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ieatcookies ( 1490517 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:44AM (#27457861)
    There needs to be more regulation on how services are advertised in general. It's pretty retarded to say "unlimited" service when in fact it's nothing of the sort. You should not be required to learn what "unlimited" means in the scope of that contract. Companies should be responsible foe literal terminology.

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