Crippled SlingPlayer Software Highlights Network Neutrality Issue


SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone should be hitting the iTunes App Store right about now. I knew it was coming, as I’ve been using a test version of the application for several weeks now. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the version that Apple (s AAPL) approved. The version I have supports streaming over Wi-Fi, EDGE and 3G networks. With my first-gen iPhone, I couldn’t test the 3G support, but the app worked great over Wi-Fi. EDGE is a less-than-optimal experience that I wouldn’t recommend with SlingPlayer Mobile on any platform. In my usage, I think the app is still rough around the edges in terms of quality and stability, but that could have been due to it being a test version. Production versions I’ve used on Windows Mobile seem to offer a higher-quality experience than the early version I used, so perhaps the final version for iPhone is better.

So it turns out that the $29.99 version you can now purchase is limited to Wi-Fi only. Engadget has a statement from AT&T on why this is, but I’ll save you the reading, although I do recommend you take a look at their exact words. The issue is two-fold: AT&T (s T) is worried about network capacity and they’d really rather have you pay them for television content. Oh, they don’t say exactly that in the official statement, of course; it’s my take on the situation and it’s why we need network neutrality policies.

I don’t expect the networks to be “dumb, fat pipes” only. They’re entitled to offer and sell their own competing services, in my opinion. But they shouldn’t monopolize the pipes with policy to ensure that your only choice for some services are the ones they offer. In this case, I suspect that many folks will do what I’m doing: not buying the software for my iPhone. It’s simply too limiting to be a WiFi-only application, especially when the same software for other platforms on AT&T’s network don’t have this artificial limitation imposed by the carrier. Unfortunately, AT&T doesn’t get hurt at all from my choice, even though they’re essentially the cause. How disappointing all around.