AT&T Changes TOS to Limit Mobile Video

Update April 3: Five days after the terms of service were changed, and four days after the first outcry in the online community, AT&T has retracted the worrisome language in its TOS that forbid third-party video transfers over its cellular network. Today the carrier issued the following statement: “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.” [original story follows]

Earlier this week AT&T revised its wireless plans to limit data services. The move effectively declares that AT&T doesn’t have to transfer third-party video over its wireless network. This would negatively impact Sling mobile applications, including its planned iPhone release, and potentially 3G video-streaming apps like CBS’s for TV.com. It also means AT&T isn’t abiding by net neutrality standards common for wired networks on its 3G wireless network.

As the Public Knowledge Policy Blog points out, the AT&T Wireless terms of service now explicitly 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, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices.”

AT&T also spells out overage prices for mobile data, and says it won’t carry unused data to the next month.

On the 5GB DataConnect Plan, once you exceed your 5GB allowance you will be automatically charged $0.00048 per Kb for any data used. On the 200MB Data Connect Plan, once you exceed your 200MB allowance, you will be automatically charged $10 for an additional 100MB.

Wireless networks don’t presume to be neutral like the Internet — operators have bought the rights to do whatever they want with their wireless spectrum — but this could set new precedents for cramping developers’ and users’ style.

An AT&T spokesperson said he is looking into the matter for us. Meanwhile, Sling Media spokesperson Jay Tannenbaum commented via email, “Even with high quality of the stream that we provide we have never really encountered any complaints about exceeding the 5gig cap. What we strive to do is offer the best quality while shielding the user from carrier bandwidth constraints.”

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