AT&T Continues To Mock The Concept Of Net Neutrality; This Time With Google Hangouts Block

from the you-need-permission-to-innovate-on-our-network dept

The big telcos (AT&T and Verizon) have been trying to move more and more to wireless networks over wired networks, in large part because they've realized that, for whatever reason, the FCC more or less gave them pretty free rein to completely ignore net neutrality concepts on their wireless networks. So it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to see that AT&T has responded to the latest Google Hangouts app, which replaces the standard Google Talk app, by blocking video while on a cellular connection on Android phones (oddly, it works on iPhones). As you may recall, AT&T actually got into trouble for doing the same thing with FaceTime on the iPhone. AT&T's statement about this, as given to The Verge, parses its words very carefully, as if they think everyone is a complete moron:
All AT&T Mobility customers can use any video chat app over cellular that is not pre-loaded on their device, but which they download from the Internet. For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we offer all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share, Tiered and soon Unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices. It's up to each OS and device makers to enable their systems to allow pre-loaded video chat apps to work over cellular for our customers on those plans.
The whole focus on "pre-loaded" apps was how AT&T tried to tap dance around net neutrality questions last year with FaceTime. And it's completely made up and bogus.

Basically, they're saying if you want to do video, you have to ask permission. That's a broken system. It goes against what makes the internet good and useful: the fact that you can innovate without permission. A mobile carrier -- one who may see video chat apps as competition, for example -- being able to act as a gatekeeper to block the usefulness of such apps is a dangerous situation for those who believe in promoting innovation. We shouldn't stand for an internet where one company gets to pick what you're allowed to do.

And, just to cut this off before anyone brings up a really silly argument to defend AT&T: yes, bandwidth on mobile broadband networks is somewhat more limited (though not as limited as they would have you believe). But, these networks, for the most part, have all done away with unlimited accounts anyway. So if people use up all their broadband quota on video calls, that should be their own decision. AT&T has already made pricing decisions that limit bandwidth to consumers, so further limiting their choice in apps makes no sense on top of that.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 1:21pm

    Wait, what?

    Isn't the Hangouts thingy a new app, downloaded by the Google App Store as an update? It cannot be a pre-loaded app since it did not even exist when the phone was pre-loaded.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Christopher Best (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    Wait, what?

    Hangouts didn't come pre-loaded on my S3. I had to add it myself. So is it blocked? No? What? Bueller? Bueller?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 1:32pm

    this is no different to what all companies that rely on customers using the Internet do. they charge extra, they restrict, they inhibit, they block, the remove. this has been happening for as long as the Internet has been available and classed as a must have, just like food and clothing, with the USA entertainment industries being the biggest offender and inhibitor. seems as if your line 'We shouldn't stand for an internet where one company gets to pick what you're allowed to do' is not only rather late but is and has been falling on deaf ears for years! with the entertainment industries now trying to get Swedenís top-level domain convicted of aiding in copyright infringement, how long do you think it will be before the same stunt is pulled everywhere? once the industries get this and then get control of the Internet, it wont be worth having. it will become useless rather than the best distribution platform that it should be. it's what the industries have been striving for but they forget that they have made such a fuck up of how and why they have approached things that i doubt if they will be trusted for anything. i bet the net will die. what we have gotten used to will be driven underground or out of existence. either way, there wont be the money made that the industries think. and serves them right!!

     

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  4.  
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    The Corrupt, May 16th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Missing the Point

    "It goes against what makes the internet good and useful: the fact that you can innovate without permission."

    You are missing the point. The purpose of everything is not to be useful and innovative; it is to acquire money and power.

    Additionally, politicians and companies LOVE it when you have to ask for their permission...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    SirThoreth (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Wait, what?

    Hangouts replaces Talk, which is a preloaded app, which is how AT&T is making the claim it's preloaded.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Christopher Best (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re: Wait, what?

    Yeah except that I'm pretty sure Talk wasn't pre-loaded on my S3. I'm pretty sure I had to download it...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Some Other AC (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 2:06pm

    Bandwidth does not equal data amount used

    Bandwidth is the size of the pipe. Data is what flows thru the pipe.
    Ergo, Data Cap(amount you can use) is pointless when trying to control Bandwidth issues(size of pipe). Throttling, while just as heinous, would do more to satisfy the bandwidth issues that capping the amount of data a person can use.

    This is nothing more than a straight money grab by all Wireless and Wireline telcos. Even with using basic services like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, etc... you can blow thru a Data Cap. This does not include the 2-6 email accounts a number of people have and access.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Johnny Canada, May 16th, 2013 @ 2:13pm

    How can they block "Google" product from accessing the internet.

    Google owns the internet.

    Or it seems that way, anything goes wrong (piracy) it is Googles fault.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    out_of_the_bob, May 16th, 2013 @ 2:18pm

    suht up miek hitler

     

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  10.  
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    John Nemesh, May 16th, 2013 @ 3:10pm

    Simple solution....

    Quit giving AT&T your business and this will cease to be a problem, one was or another! I am truly astounded at how many people continue to renew their AT&T contracts, or elect to get new ones! Even the ones "grandfathered" into unlimited data plans! Go to a different carrier guys! Preferably, one that has no interest in being a gatekeeper or in providing services or software! Both Sprint and T-Mobile have unlimited data and NO gatekeeping problem!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Wolfy, May 16th, 2013 @ 4:18pm

    WE should pick an arbitrary date, and everyone cancel their ATT/CAble/ whatever service and leave it off for two days. They would FREAK if enough people got on-board. It would have to planned out far enough ahead of time for the idea to percolate across the web. I'd happily go without my ISP (through which I get everything)for two days to put the fear of the American Consumer into the asshat corporate bigwigs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 4:53pm

    What frustrates me the most is that we're supposed to be making progress and yet these things are clear indications of regress.

    Getting rid of Unlimited plans: Regress
    Disabling features: Regress (Google Wallet (Verizon), Video Chat (ATT), Tethering (Verizon), IRC (Verizon))...

    How can any company or person make the claim that regression is good for us?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 4:56pm

    Re:

    Sadly this would make AT&T more money than hurt them.
    Say, for example, everyone who was an AT&T customer quit tomorrow all at once and then re-joined two days later.
    How much money do you think AT&T would make from Early Termination Fees vs lost subscriber income?
    Let's say people quit for a full month so that's one full month they are not making money. How much padding do they have from Early Termination?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    SirThoreth (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 5:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Wait, what?

    I had it preloaded on both my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone and my Lenovo IdeaTab A2107 tablet. I suspect plenty of other phones had it preloaded, too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 5:59pm

    Re: Simple solution....

    Oh it's that easy? Just stop giving AT&T Business?

    Okay well I'll just get that magic phone that doesn't use Cellular or Wired communication run by an oligopoly. Along with my magic data plan which has reasonable speeds at a reasonable price with a telco who does not have a stranglehold grip on communications.

    Want me to give you their number? All you really gotta do is say an incantation five times into a mirror (though there's a twenty percent chance a demon will leap out instead)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 8:59pm

    Maybe Google should just pay the wireless guys a fee like ESPN

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Rich in CT, May 16th, 2013 @ 10:09pm

    Talk has always been blocked.

    Google Talk came pre- loaded. It had an option to allow video over cellular. Itv was unchecked and disabled. My guess is that when Google refreshed it to Hangouts they either enabled this option or removed the shutoff. ATT would have to block it now if the software allows it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 12:15am

    Homophones are hard, let's go riding...

    I think you meant "free rein" (an equine analogy), and not "free reign" (a royalty analogy?). It's an easy mistake - they'd like you to think them king, but really they're a horse's ass (sorry, horses everywhere).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 12:29am

    Wait for it...

    Seems that all of the big players should keep a close eye on Google. Google is lighting up fiber networks and it might not be long until they cover those same areas with WiMax or similar 4G service.

    My best guess is that Google has done the math and realizes that the profit on IP traffic is insanely high. So they can compete with the big players by offering service at say 300% mark up instead of 30,000% mark up and look like saints.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Vern Grey, May 17th, 2013 @ 2:39am

    AT&T

    is one of the biggest corporate pieces of **** out there, equal to monsanto. May fleas, the amount, of every grain of sand on the planet infest their loins.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Howard (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 3:59am

    Re:

    Oh, I don't see how THAT could go wrong...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    The Real Michael, May 17th, 2013 @ 4:36am

    I've always wondered why certain YouTube videos wouldn't work from mobile phones.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 7:01am

    Re: Missing the Point

    I am an att wireless employee and can confirm this

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Ninja (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 7:15am

    Would a VPN fix it?

    In any case I wonder why Americans aren't protesting already. Seems they like to be abused in all sorts of fronts...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    nasch (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    Re: Bandwidth does not equal data amount used

    Ergo, Data Cap(amount you can use) is pointless when trying to control Bandwidth issues(size of pipe).

    Except that it will tend to cause customers to limit their use of high-bandwidth applications over mobile data.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    B. Hallock, May 17th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Re: Simple solution....

    Or you could go with a socially responsible company like Credo Mobile and stop funneling your dollars into this nonsense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Noah, May 17th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Re: Wait for it...

    I agree with this but I think wimax was a poor choice of example. Hspa+ or lte are more likely due to them actually working well inside buildings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Reynn, May 17th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Wait, what?

    Talk can only be pre-loaded on a device, it was never made available in the Android Market/Play Store until it changed to Hangouts the other day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    job, May 18th, 2013 @ 5:42am

    find new job new you

    applications are preloaded.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Matt, May 19th, 2013 @ 9:30pm

    Re: Simple solution....

    I'm with you, but unfortunately Sprint and T-Mobile are a distant third and fourth when it comes to coverage in my semi-rural area.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    joe, May 20th, 2013 @ 10:13am

    hangouts works on tmobilr

    Hmm... interesting. I have att and my wife has tmobile. She has a gs3 I have a gs4. I can use hangouts on wifi while she can video call on cellular. When we use tango we both can use cellular to make a video call no problem. Its so ridiculousthat you pay for service and can't use it the way you want.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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