If AT&T Mobile Broadband Banned TV Streaming, Why Does It Allow MLB Streaming?
from the net-neutrality? dept
Earlier this year, we covered AT&T’s back and forth over its terms of service, concerning whether or not services like SlingMedia’s place shifting (streaming from your TV to a phone or laptop) was allowed. Some had noticed that AT&T’s terms of service appeared to forbid it — but then AT&T said it was a mistake and took it out, only to change its position a little later, and reinsert the language. Because of that, Sling had to disable its own player from working when an iPhone is connected via the 3G cellular network, rather than a WiFi connection.
Yet, recently, Major League Baseball’s digital arm, MLB.com announced that it was going to start streaming video of games to its iPhone app, even on 3G connections — and AT&T seemed fine with it. However, this differential treatment is leading to charges of favoritism and discrimination, even bringing out the dreaded charges that “net neutrality has been broken.” The specific question is why AT&T gets to choose which streaming video apps are allowed, and which are not. If your regular ISP told you that you could watch Hulu, but not YouTube, there would be quite an outrage.
AT&T’s response is disingenuous, at best, claiming:
AT&T said the MLB app streams video from MLB’s website, while SlingPlayer streams from the TV set-top box Slingbox. AT&T also said the company is only trying to ensure all users on its network get the best possible service.
“We’re certainly not crippling any apps,” an AT&T spokesman said. “This is an issue of fairness…. While we would like to support all video services across our network, the reality is that wireless networks simply lack the capacity to support customers streaming hours of cable, satellite or IPTV video programming to individual users.”
While this — once again — highlights the point that mobile cellular services are nowhere near legitimate competitors for real broadband services, note that the AT&T person never actually answers the question. The fact that Sling streams from a settop box and MLB streams from MLB’s website is functionally meaningless to the iPhone. To the iPhone user it’s the same thing. It doesn’t care where the server is placed — it’s just receiving a video stream. So AT&T is not being honest or upfront about this at all. If the network is a problem, then it shouldn’t allow video at all. Picking and choosing who gets to run video certainly smacks of discrimination and favoritism — exactly the sort of thing the FCC claims is not allowed.