This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone but AT&T has told Engadget that the crippling of the new Slingbox software was due to AT&T’s licensing terms.  What terms?  The terms they changed barely a month ago.

AT&T’s statement, below:

"Slingbox, which would use large amounts of wireless network capacity, could create congestion and potentially prevent other customers from using the network. The application does not run on our 3G wireless network. Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our [brand new]terms of service. We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.

That said, we don’t restrict users from going to a Web site that lets them view videos. But what our terms and conditions prohibit is the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to their personal computer or smartphone.

The Slingbox application for the iPhone runs on WiFi. That’s good news for AT&T’s iPhone 3G customers, who get free WiFi access at our 20,000 owned and operated hot spots in the U.S., including Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, hotels, and airports. AT&T is the industry leader in WiFi."

According to PublicKnowledge, AT&T changed its terms for computers, not phones, to prohibit the use of streaming media like Sling.  According to the statement, AT&T circumvents this because it considers the iPhone to be a computer.  All other smartphones which currently run Slingplayer apparently don’t make this grade.

Bolded was added to AT&T’s computer 3G terms on March 31st:

This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but 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 is prohibited.

This addendum to AT&T’s terms, which was added after most iPhone users subscribed/agreed to a phone plan is what gives them the right to block Sling traffic over 3G.  The question that must be asked: Why single out the iPhone? BlackBerry, Symbian, WindowsMobile, and Palm all have Slingplayers that work over 3G. 

It is all really moot because Apple has final say on what can and can’t go into the App Store.  AT&T asked Apple not to let the app in as a 3G streaming app.  Apple probably got better pricing or some sort of other concession in return.  End of story.

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