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Summary:

AT&T, with its efforts to restrict Skype on the iPhone to Wi-Fi hotspots, and what appear to be attempts to block some video services as well, is looking like the Comcast of the wireless net neutrality debate.  In one of my favorite pieces of corporate BS, […]

AT&T, with its efforts to restrict Skype on the iPhone to Wi-Fi hotspots, and what appear to be attempts to block some video services as well, is looking like the Comcast of the wireless net neutrality debate.  In one of my favorite pieces of corporate BS, an AT&T spokesman called today to tell me that while the carrier doesn’t prohibit folks downloading VoIP applications on their devices, it’s just not cool when a AT&T partner wants to support it.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for the carrier, refused to answer any of my broader questions about the role of net neutrality on wireless networks, or how this ties to AT&T changing its terms of service for video; he merely repeated his single talking point — twice. Since he clearly wants y’all to understand AT&T’s position through this particular statement (and only this particular statement), here it is: “We don’t prohibit Skype calls on our network, but we think it’s only reasonable that our vendors won’t facilitate competitive services that run on our network.”

As for me, I’m still hoping we can get some honest and real debate over how neutral we can expect our wireless networks to be, given the capacity limitations of radio spectrum. Unlike wired web providers, which have the option to upgrade to faster pipes, the government has leased finite amounts of spectrum for carriers to use. How much does a carrier’s right to ensure a quality experience on a limited resource trump the rights of consumers to use whatever services they want? And how far can carriers push their defense of a quality experience to block competing IP-based applications?

  1. ATT is the worst……..

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  2. Now that the concept of mobility and wireless internet has caught on, the carriers don’t want to provide the services they have sold us on. Heck yeah, we want your $50 a month, but no, we don’t want to provide the service you pay us for, because it’s too expensive. If it’s really that difficult to provide enough bandwidth to stream video, why do the carriers try to sell it to us as an additional service? Simply put, the wireless carriers are lousy companies who spent far too much time and money trying to sell services and hook customers, then fall flat on their faces in every aspect of providing that service. Personally, I can’t wait for voip to replace the carriers, and I simply pay for a WiMax connection.

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  3. I haven’t followed this closely, but wouldn’t such a change (video) constitute a material change in terms — allowing customers to take their subsidized iPhones and walk away from an AT&T contract? (not that they would have many other options)

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  4. Facebook Group: AT&T CUSTOMERS against Dumbing Down the iPhone
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=62063056044

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  5. Terho Kasurinen Saturday, April 4, 2009

    In Finland, where mobile phone networks were first created, home to Nokia and the inventor of SMS… the networks have always been neutral as to what devices are used on them and how the devices are used, within goverment regulations. You always bought your whichever phone and chose your SIM card and services from whichever operator.

    The whole situation of such a monopoly as ATT’s is alien. And it sucks. I can’t gather how on earth freedom-loving Americans have ever let themselves to be subjected to such an evil scheme. Still, even here you can’t get your iPhone to do voice over 3G. Good that the chats work, though.

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  6. Using that logic because ATT offer its Navigator(at $ 10 a month) service no one should allow competitive Google or Garmiin to write location apps for their devices? since it offers VoiceDial (for $ 5 a month), no one should allow speed dial apps for their devices?

    no “competitive services that run on our network”? hmmm…

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  7. Let’s be real here, the issue here is that Skype in its consumer and business varieties represents a clear and present threat to all of the major carriers both domestic and global.

    They may lose the battle ultimately but they clearly will not go down without a fight.

    Ironically, other VOIPish services are available for devices on all of these networks but they have yet to be shut down. BlackBerry has an intriguing SIP solution and Skype and other aren’t far behind in that regard either.

    My organization is working hard in the background with potential partners like Skype (TruPhone & Sparkphone come to mind as well) who can solve the international dialing issue on mobile. GlobalSIM is intriguing as well insomuch as they can address the outrageous roaming costs incurred as well.

    Ultimately Skype’s real challenge will come when carriers recognize the threat and instead of trying to murder it, attempt to mirror it. Imagine if for instance ATT Mobility were to deploy a global mobile to mobile plan that allows unlimited calling whenever on a GSM network across the world. That could put a company like Skype on the real defense rather than the position they are in now, a fast growing threat to the establishment.

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  8. [...] will sell to Windows Mobile users with only Wi-Fi calling available; the action may also head off a confrontation carriers faced when the VoIP application began selling to iPhone users through Apple’s App Store. In that [...]

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  9. [...] AT&T and Apple blocking Skype on the iPhone [...]

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