Why Does Anyone Need Permission To Place Shift TV To A Mobile Device?

from the not-an-issue dept

A week and a half ago, we noted that all of these hyped up fee-based mobile TV efforts were pretty much doomed, thanks to the rise of place shifting technologies from companies like SlingMedia and Orb (and, most likely, eventually directly from cable and satellite providers themselves). We also mentioned at the end of that post that the mobile operators were likely to whine and complain about how their “unlimited” data plans were being abused and how they needed to block the system. What we didn’t necessarily realize was just how quickly we’d be proven right. Forbes is pointing out that the big mobile operators are balking at the idea and may not let systems like Sling Media’s work on their phones. It’s a position rightly called out as backwards and short-sighted for operators going against what their subscribers clearly want. However, more to the point, it’s not at all clear why Forbes implies that Sling Media even needs permission or partnerships with the mobile operators. All they need to do is create the app that works and make it downloadable. They have the app already. As long as the mobile operators actually sell “unlimited data plans,” then it would seem that there’s really nothing else that needs to be said. Users can just choose to use it. Of course, we all know those plans really aren’t unlimited. However, the operators would really need to proactively step in and block things like the Slingbox — and that’s only likely to stir up a negative PR storm they probably don’t want (not that it’s always stopped them in the past).


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Comments on “Why Does Anyone Need Permission To Place Shift TV To A Mobile Device?”

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26 Comments
reality sucks says:

no such thing as unlimited data

If you check out the TOS agreements there is no such thing as Unlimited Data. You may recall 2-3 years ago that cable companies were taking slack for capping or terminating subscribers who used too much bandwidth adn I am sure the mobile ops will do the same. Contrary to popular belief bandwidth is not unlimited or free. I personally think the network operators in the US have no one to blame but themselves since this is how they have marketed their service. IMHO there is going to be a major “retraining” of the customer effort shortly to move the US subcriber mindset to accept the trasaction based model in use in EMEA and AsiaPac.

dead cows says:

blocking sites

It is trivial for an operator to block access to a site, and / or a mobile download. They’ve been doing it at the mobile gateway level since they launched data services. It is the only way the wireless carrier is able to enforce their cut of whatever is accessed through their network… (this is also one of the reasons why mobile porn hasn’t taken off in the US yet — as most are blocked).

Roger Entner says:

Re: Network Dimensions

The problem is that when 10 people watch the Slingbox in one location on the same network that the network breaksdown – that’s why bandwidth hog technologies like TV is typically broadcast (air, cable, satellite, IPTV etc). Slingbox is unicast – and really, really cool. Current highspeed data networks are just not designed that it can withhold that type of a download surge. Also, please note that the mobile slingbox downloads over the air at about 240 kps (the uplink of my cable box) which translates into 90 MB per hour. Doesn’t sound high unless you know that the average “unlimited” data user consumes about 60 MB per month – 90 MB per hour versus 60 MB per month. The wireless carrier “unlimited data” business model is built around 60 MB a month, not 90 MB per hour – and charges accordingly the former rather than the latter. The economics and physics of the fixed and wide area internet are vastly different. On one hand you should not discriminate against consumer choice (net neutrality) on the other hand physics and economics break down (need for more spectrum, more cell sites (want one in your backyard?), base stations, etc)

The bigger problem is how wireless carriers launch their broadcast services with the price insensitive pioneer segment (which every new product needs) being in hog heaven with their Slingboxes instead of their broadcast service.

Scott says:

Re: Re: Network Dimensions

You miss the point, unlimited means WITHOUT limit, not 60MB/month or even 90MB/hour. Because they sold a business model they could not support the consumer ends up getting the short end. Unlimited means I can use my connection at peak, for as long as I want.

The biggest problem, the only real problem, is greedy carriers touting services they can not handle.

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: Re: Re: Network Dimensions

unlimited means WITHOUT limit

Exactly! That’s what the prefix “un” is supposed to mean. E.g. “un-able” or “un-friendly” or “un-ethical..”

Unlimited means peak usage 24/7 all the time every time, and anything else is false advertising, and constitutes fraud.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Network Dimensions

you people are morons. clearly you are limited to what their network is technically capable of delivering. by your reasoning, since youre paying for no limits, they have an obligation to increase their technical capacity so that you can do whatever you want without being ‘limited’.

technical limits are created by economic limits. so when you are limited by a technical barrier, it is caused by their refusal to spend infinite resources on increasing the technical barrier.

i do not–and you should not–expect them to increase their technical barriers infinitely to meet your infinite expectations of ‘unlimited’.

it is totally alright for you to yack about their shortsightedness and sluggishness to accept new technologies and uses of their services yadda yadda but shut up already with the cries about unlimited. if i offer you my unlimited services as a manservant, sue me immediately. i will die someday and thus your services will be limited, a clear breach of contract.

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Network Dimensions

Note the fact that the sh*t shoveler’s always seem to be Anonymous…
Can’t stand by your own statements by filling in an email address field? Your opinion is worthless, even you won’t back it up.

The problem is in the wording. You cannot advertise a product of any kind as “unlimited” and claim to cap it later.

What if I gave you a coupon for “Unlimited Whoppers” from Burger King [tm] and you paid a hefty price for it, then later on I decided there weren’t enough cows to go around and I couldn’t fulfill the Unlimited Burgers coupon I sold you.

Who’s right or wrong??

Duh… Duh-Duh. [typing noises]
Judge Wapner says the coupon seller made false claims. Judgement for the Plaintiff: Unlimited Whoppers.

ELS says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Network Dimensions

The problem is in the wording. You cannot advertise a product of any kind as “unlimited” and claim to cap it later.

I’ll bet you in the wording of the actual contract (not the body of the advertising, the stuff by teh asterix) it says that they can change the specifics at any time as far as capping maximums is concerned. These people have armies of laweyers for a reason.

You’re talking about the marketing version of “unlimited”, they’re talking about the legal version of “unlimited”.

ELS says:

No Subject Given

To answer the specific question “Why Does Anyone Need Permission To Place Shift TV To A Mobile Device?”…

It depends on the TOS that already agreed to from the entity supplying you the television programming you want to place shift.

When you sign up with direct tv (or whomever) you sign a contract that you will view the programming at a specific address. If you place shift it you are demonstrably in breach of that contract.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

There is a bit of flexibility to the word ‘view’, perhaps. If it means ‘tuned and decoded on a licensed decoder’ then youre still safe with place shifting. And that is reasonable from a business point of view–it allows them to stay within the law for purposes of local station reception and taxes and so forth.

Or, put another way, ‘view’ is their word for ‘consumed’. Consumed is definitely flexible in a high tech world, where users can insert additional layers of technology at their whim, and consume the products of a device that is itsself a consumer of the original content.

Or maybe ‘view’ means ‘see’. While not the most useful definition in this situation, it is certainly the most obvious. At any rate I dont understand why it is any of their business where i ‘see’ their content, and plenty of reasons why they care where i ‘consume’ it

CJ says:

Re: Re: Re: Network Dimensions

When Verizon decided to lower the price of their unlimited data usage plan to $40 (I believe), they said this price was lowered based on a low usage. If anyone uses more than some arbitary limit they would raise them back up to the old rate. I use a Samsung i730 (PDA phone) and this was specifically to discourage people from buying 200 minute plans and make phone calls using Skype and their unlimited data usage plans. The system just was not built to have that high of a load, thus they would be moved back up to the higher pricing for the data plan.

The fact of the matter is, these days, damn never every statement that is spoken or printed has a disclaimer or a Terms of Use statement applying to it. An example above was the “bumper-to-bumper” warranty on a car. Everybody knows that it doesn’t REALLY mean bumper-to-bumper, it means that it covers most parts of the car that are likely not to need replacement. But the minute anything breaks it wasn’t covered. In this case Unlimited means “Unlimited up until a specific amount of usage”.

If you really dislike it that much, you can go switch to a different service that fits your needs better, but there will always be limitations on the written and spoken word, because of these disclaimers, from pretty much every single large corporation with a product to sell.

How come when we buy a cell phone we all DO understand that it won’t work EVERYWHERE, even though we pay for the cell phone because we want to be able to use it WHERE we need it. But when we buy the data service to go for it, people get upset that it isn’t exactly the way we want it. Both situations sound very similar to me…….but extremely different results.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

Sad comment on business today that they think they can put an asterisk after any bald-faced lie they want to market to consumers, throw some legalese at the bottom of the page, and they are off the hook.

Almost as sad is that consumers let most companies get away with it and our government/courts are happy to look they other way if no one is complaining too loudly.

I was raised thinking that the United States had a very strict concept of “truth in advertising”. It is disappointing to see that business value has been trambled by greed and laziness.

Tom says:

Unlimited Data plan hypocracy

As we all agree, the carriers do not intend to sell truly unlimited data plans, just take advantage of the marketing aspects of that title.

Evidence can be found of their hypocracy in the terms and conditions of the contracts. I know Cingular’s contains language such as “plans are not valid for machine to machine communications,… telemtry applications and video servers” (wording may be dated).

Most interesting is that they themselves advocate using these unlimited plans for business applications like remote monitoring as well as the basis of their claim to be experts in providing mobile application “solutions” such as “real-time” inventory capabilities etc.

They can’t have their cake and eat it to, either they allow high bandidth apps or not.

vayapues says:

No Subject Given

It will be a moot point in the next year or so. And cellular phone companies would be wise to think carefully about their next move.

Free Wi-Fi is everywhere, at least in my city.
Many of the local kids buy Pocket PCs and use them as cell phones via skype and Wi-Fi. If the cellular phone companies want to be short-sighted to the point of pushing more users away from cellular into the arms of Wi-Fi / Skype or Wi-Fi / Vonage, let them.

The consumer is going to demand bandwidth, and they are going to get it. If the cell phone company does not offer it, no skin off my back, I can get it elsewhere.

Granted, in the short run, wi-fi/skype only works when the end user is standing somewhere with wi-fi, so for the time being, I and others would keep our cell phones, but… once you get a boulder rolling, it is hard to stop it.

The cellular service providers should not be in a hurry to chase their customers to wi-fi. Yes, this saves their bandwidth, and saves them some money in the short run, but in the long run, they begin to push the boulder at a slow run, so that their customers get more and more comfortable with wi-fi. This is not what they should want. Ultimatly, as wi-fi spreads, it with bite them, because they won’t be able to stop the boulder rolling, or their customers from going wi-fi/VO-IP.

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