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Group Pushes FCC To Investigate Skype for iPhone

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the making-the-network-crumble-crumble dept.

Communications 131

Macworld is reporting that an internet advocacy group has asked the FCC to investigate whether the WiFi-only restriction on the Skype for iPhone app is in violation of federal law. "Since its release on Tuesday, Skype for iPhone has been downloaded more than a million times — that's a rate of six downloads a second, according to the company. All this despite the fact the software only works via the iPhone's Wi-Fi connection, and not AT&T's 3G network. [...] The letter cites the FCC's Internet Policy Statement (PDF link) which states that 'consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice' in order to 'preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet.'"

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Investigate an iphone (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452085)

By shoving [goatse.fr] it up your ass. My void the warranty.

Re:Investigate an iphone (4, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452167)

Good thing I bought Apple Care.

Consumers vs. Business (4, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452095)

Not to sound jaded, but Slashdotters know the outcome of this already.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (3, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452173)

Considering how often consumer win these thing, I don't know who is going to win.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (4, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452333)

AT&T and Apple decide it's not worth the legal rigamarole and pull the plug on the Skype app entirely?

Re:Consumers vs. Business (1, Troll)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452585)

knowing apple they will make a skype type app so they can charge more $$$ for it and take skype off the istore

Re:Consumers vs. Business (2, Insightful)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454879)

This isn't Apple's issue, this is the cell phone carriers in general (we have the same problem with Softbank here in Japan). Also, considering there are already other free applications in place that support not only Skype, but integrated multiple IM chat (Fring), I don't think Apple minds.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (2, Interesting)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452813)

If the FCC steps in, they may not be ABLE to pull it without incurring their wrath. The FCC DOES have teeth when motivated.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (0, Troll)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452869)

And then there are other apps that will follow in the wake.

Just waiting for the dam to burst when it comes to Apple and their crippled world.

However - this isn't limited to Apple, many other manufacturers and telcos are working together to cripple the user experience.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (2, Interesting)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452949)

The FCC can't regulate what apps Apple makes available in their store. However, they might be able to force Apple to open the platform to other stores. Then again, Apple is free to kill the platform to prevent that (would they? could they be forced to if AT&T's contract demands of restrictions can't be met?).

And if Apple gets off by saying a 3G network is not an Internet network but rather a digital telephony network through which the Internet can be tunneled, expect other providers like cable and DSL to make similar declarations to justify restricting what their users can put through their television delivery and wired analog telephony networks.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454811)

The FCC can't regulate what apps Apple makes available in their store. However, they might be able to force Apple to open the platform to other stores. Then again, Apple is free to kill the platform to prevent that (would they? could they be forced to if AT&T's contract demands of restrictions can't be met?).

And if Apple gets off by saying a 3G network is not an Internet network but rather a digital telephony network through which the Internet can be tunneled, expect other providers like cable and DSL to make similar declarations to justify restricting what their users can put through their television delivery and wired analog telephony networks.

That's absolutely brain dead. First of all, Apple has no power to control the AT&T Network. Apple is not of interest, just the way AT&T has allowed or not allowed Skype to operate, on it's backbone. Apple is bound to the contract they signed with AT&T.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (4, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452759)

No no no no NO!

I will hear no more of this nonsense! Apple and AT&T know what is best and we should just respect their superior wisdom. I know there are those out there who think that they should be able to use the products and services they pay for, but not at the expense of Apple's and AT&T's profit model! How un-American are you people?! You may pay for internet service, but that doesn't mean you can use it to get around their "nickel and dime"-ing your phone bill with added services like texting and the like.

Apple provides the product and they should be able to tell you how you are allowed to use it.

AT&T provides the service and they should be able to tell you what you are allowed to use it.

Yo iPhone guys! (5, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453407)

"Apple provides the product and they should be able to tell you how you are allowed to use it."

Exactly. Read your EULA, or whatever the iPhone's equivalent is. You were pitched a locked-down device with a closed software stack, and you went "fine, whatever, as long as it Just Works(TM) you can do what you want."

Now they're doing what they want -- leveraging the closed platform to shut out competition. And you're bitching.

Re:Yo iPhone guys! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27453617)

> Now they're doing what they want -- leveraging the closed platform to shut out competition. And you're bitching.

  Exactly. It has *always* bewildered me why people buy something that locked down in the first place. It's just weird - like the rest of humanity has collectively lost its sanity, or something.

If I'm buying something, as opposed to renting it, then I won't even consider buying it if it doesn't actually become mine after I pay for it.

You get what you deserve. If nobody bought things that were locked down, I can damn well guarantee you that within a month every phone on the market would be open.

Re:Yo iPhone guys! (2, Insightful)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454299)

<I>If nobody bought things that were locked down</I>

Then there would be no DVDs, no microwaves, and no cordless phones -- generally there's no technical reason your new cordless POTS handset couldn't work with your existing base station, other than vendor lock-in. And sometimes it might be convenient to run the microwave with the door open, but it's locked down to prevent such use.

But most people don't want to spend 20 minutes setting up the comm protocol and tuning the radio on their new handset, and don't want to risk running the microwave with the door open. To those people the "lock-down" is actually a feature, not a hinderance.

Certainly there are some people who could make use of additional functions that are technically supported by the hardware, and there are cases where "lock-down" goes too far and is a hinderance for most users, but it's disingenuous to pretend that no end users benefit for "lock-down" under any circumstance, or that people are too dumb/sheep-like/etc. to do anything about this terrible injustice.

Re:Consumers vs. Business (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452867)

Yeah, if they intended to force cellphones to open up and work like the Internet, we'd only have data plans, and voip over them. One advantage is that we'd pay less for "silences" in a conversation. Mostly, you wouldn't pay more for voice, transmitted over gsm, than for voice over ip. SMS would also become MUCH cheaper...

Re:Consumers vs. Business (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452941)

And data would become much more expensive. The providers require huge profits, to be willing to provide service, and they're going to make them by charging rates that result in those profits, based on what services a majority of their subscribers utilize.

Bandwidth an issue on 3G? (4, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452097)

I...if this...orking or...an you he...ause I ca...ou...Wha...er...is...ucks.

Re:Bandwidth an issue on 3G? (4, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453061)

I...if this...orking or...an you he...ause I ca...ou...Wha...er...is...ucks.

Recovering original text:

Incense massif thistlebird uncorking orangutan you hentai applause I caribou. Wharfmaster fish trucks.

Re:Bandwidth an issue on 3G? (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453587)

I...if this...orking or...an you he...ause I ca...ou...Wha...er...is...ucks.

Yeah, everybody knows it's impossible to transmit audio in real time on a telephone. The connection just isn't designed for that type of 21st century use.

Re:Bandwidth an issue on 3G? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27454375)

Voice and data share the same bandwidth on AT&T's network, and voice gets priority. The quality of a VoIP call over a cell phone's data connection would be a whole Hell of a lot lower than the quality of an ordinary call over the voice connection.

Oh, and there's no handover for data when switching between 3G and EDGE, and if that's not enough fun, the process of opening a new data connection takes at least several seconds.

Re:Bandwidth an issue on 3G? (1)

AndyCR (1091663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453803)

I use Skype over Sprint's 3G on a Touch Pro and it works perfectly. The audio quality is comparable to normal phone calls. There's no reason why it wouldn't work.

is the cellular network "public internet" (3, Interesting)

irtza (893217) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452101)

well, if the cellular network is not running on IP and requires a bridge, then technically this is not an issue. Does anyone know how software developers interact with the data stack on cell phones? Is it the same as the wifi stack with another device name given or does it have its own API?

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (1)

gnarfel (1135055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452383)

I would assume that since you can browse the web and use listening sockets you must have something to put in those packet headers as a source address.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (2, Interesting)

irtza (893217) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452539)

well, my main issue is that you can embed http or ftp content in non-TCP/IP packets and have it reconstructed into proper TCP/IP packets at the verizon end. This essentially allows them to declare their network "private" and their protocols proprietary thus making their software at the server end the only Internet connected portion of the communication.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (5, Interesting)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452763)

You are confusing TCP/IP with the term "public internet". The protocol is different to the concept. Public interconnected networks, no matter the protocol, seem to fall under this FCC Policy.

On top of this, if you are serving up TCP/IP packets to the user but the technology in between is not TCP/IP, well, there is no difference as far as the user's perception. Add to this that interception of traffic goes against laws (at least where I live it is), and you've got a very strong case for knocking down any interference in the service.

I've had a phone company here in Australia try to claim that internet traffic on a phone isn't internet traffic and therefore they didn't need to update the usage meter under ACMA (Australian Communications & Media Authority) regulations. After a year of the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) investigating I was advised I wasn't liable for the charges that were acrued due to their meter not updating. Their case of "it's data not internet" didn't wash. I'd like to see how a case like this goes in the US where you don't have consumer protection like we do in Australia.

And no, I didn't have to pay any legal fees, or even turn up to any court hearings. The TIO investigates and refers the matter to the ACMA for enforcement. The company that did this was not only told to fix the usage meter, they were charged a minimum of AU$1500 for the case going to a level 3 investigation (which was much more than the amount they would have received from me).

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27453815)

Well, if the intevening protocol only conveyed TCP/IP then this would make sense; however, if there protocol only conveys http or ftp protocol then it may be an issue.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (2, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452973)

It's not whether the protocol is open or not that means a node is participating in the internet. It's about whether there's a router or not that converts their local network communication to TCP/IP communication and communicates with other hosts.

You can be on an old Novell IPX/SPX network, and use pure IPX/SPX packets, if there's a machine that acts as a Proxy or Router, and converts those packets into IP packets, then you're definitely connected to the internet.

Since the sockets API is basically the same for the application developer, whether the connection to the internet is over WiFi or the cellular network.

The limitation in the Skype application seems artificially imposed as a means of limiting the quality of the application, and preventing it from detracting from cellular providers' per-minute usage charges, and protecting the limited available data bandwidth on the cell network.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27454335)

"protecting the limited available data bandwidth on the cell network"

Skype doesn't use (or at least doesn't need to use) any more bandwidth than a standard phone call. Many SIP phones use the same GSM compression algorithm as a cellular phone, plus a lit bit of overhead to wrap the packet-address (as opposed to circuit-addressed) data, so the overall data usage should be pretty small, particularly if the network employs IP header compression over the wireless link.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (3, Interesting)

forand (530402) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452643)

Perhaps the issue is that AT&T sells us internet access (at least that is how it appears on my bill).

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452677)

In the iphone, the developer uses the BSD socket API (it is a darwin/bsd, after all) or a foundation class that uses the BSD socket API. The TCP stack has a link layer that can be USB, Wifi, cell, or bluetooth.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (3, Insightful)

vistic (556838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452745)

Is the protocol what technically defines "the Internet"? Is IPv6 a new Internet?

I would think it's a matter of being able to access data which is on the Internet, regardless of protocol.

If you can normally access Internet-connected machines over their 3G network... such as accessing any website... then it's clear this is a restriction on Skype because they fear that it's competition.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453145)

I would think it's a matter of being able to access data which is on the Internet, regardless of protocol.

So I'm entitled to run live streaming video over carrier pigeons and social networks?

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (3, Funny)

marcsherman (300604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453287)

So I'm entitled to run live streaming video over carrier pigeons and social networks?

Do it with the twitter error page, and you can implement both protocols at the same time!

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453737)

I would think it's a matter of being able to access data which is on the Internet, regardless of protocol.

So I'm entitled to run live streaming video over carrier pigeons and social networks?

Sure you are.

The right to be stupid, however, does not mean you have the right to succeed by being stupid. (However much big business is trying to convince people otherwise.)

In other words: You have the right to do so, provided you pay the required costs, etc. And we have the right to laugh at you.

Re:is the cellular network "public internet" (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454823)

Did you bid billions of dollars for bandwidth licensing to the FCC? No? Move along.

Public vs Private (1)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452163)

"preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet."

Someone missed their interweb for dummies class.

Re:Public vs Private (-1, Flamebait)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452227)

Someone missed their trolling for Slashdotters class.

SUCK MY COCK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452165)

One at a time, fags!

Re:SUCK MY COCK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452241)

You sound as though you keep being inconvenienced by two or more people sucking your penis at the same time.

Re:SUCK MY COCK (1)

gnarfel (1135055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452399)

Doesn't sound all that inconvenient...

And the problem is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452179)

"The letter cites the FCC's Internet Policy Statement (PDF link) which states that 'consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice' in order to 'preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet.'""

And consumers are choosing to use an iPhone to access the internet. What's the problem? Don't like the product don't use it.

Re:And the problem is? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452239)

In this case, its a question of using the software they want with the hardware and service they are paying for.

It would be similar to your aol internet access not allowing you to use hotmail or yahoo mail unless you use their portal.

Re:And the problem is? (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452291)

But it's not the service, it's the product.

Re:And the problem is? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453069)

I would compare it to Hmail providing a mail application (that connects to their servers) that is free and accessible for users when connected to broadband ISPs.

But when you connect up using a dialup or satellite connection, you are only allowed to access Hmail through a different application provided by your portal ISP and included with your service (in partnership with Hmail)

Oh, and incidentally, all the portal ISPs charge a per-message, per-kilobyte, or per-session duration rate for e-mail download and upload.

The restriction is completely artificial -- there is no inherent reason for the restriction, other than the provider of the application chooses to add code to detect the dialup connection and refuse service.

3g Good enough? (3, Informative)

supernatendo (1523947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452213)

I don't think 3G is good enough whether or not it gives a public IP adress is besides the point... 3G can be expected to provide 384 kbit/s at or below pedestrian speeds, but only 128 kbit/s in a moving car...Thus making WiFi really the only viable way to do it in the first place. It's not so much them restricting it just to be evil...

Re:3g Good enough? (4, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452281)

skype works well enough on my windows mobile phone and umts. 128 kbit/s is plenty for speech, especially if compressed (euro isdn uses an uncompressed 64 kbit/s channel for speech and it is way better than analogue landline).

Re:3g Good enough? (3, Informative)

supernatendo (1523947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452335)

You are referring to Europe's ISDN lines, which are not IP based they are using a digital signal over POTS, which explains the better voice clarity. IP packets are handled differently since there is much more going on at once.

Re:3g Good enough? (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452743)

Dude, GSM datarate is 13Kbps, ulaw which is what better VoIP handsets use is 64Kbps. Bandwidth is NOT the issue, the loss of stupid per minute revenue is.

Re:3g Good enough? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452961)

Funny you mention this because I just made a call a few hours ago with skype using the 3G from my (tethered) G1 phone and the call was crystal clear on both ends.

If you have a G1 you can tether it with http://graha.ms/androidproxy/ [graha.ms] and use it with skype's proxy option.

Re:3g Good enough? (2, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453159)

That's really all you need. 64 kilobits of voice (upstream) and 64 kilobytes downstream.

You don't need high quality, you don't need a high bit rate for usable voice, you just need good latency characteristics.

Also, Skype may not use it (at least not for free), but, with G.729 codec and the requisite compression, 8 Kilobits per second is enough, for a usable quality audio signal.

Re:3g Good enough? (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454245)

Er, you do understand how GSM works right? You are using, in the vast majority of instances, a 2 bit codec - and by this I mean 2 bits out of a standard 8 bit wide 64kbps timeslot on some trunk that is already compressed to the crap house using DCME. This means for voice you are given a generous 16kbps. What do you want for skype? 6 channel surround sound? 128kbps, are you serious?!

Skype can and does work absolutely fine on 3G. Even speeding along the interstate.

What about tethering? (4, Interesting)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452255)

an internet advocacy group has asked the FCC to investigate whether the WiFi-only restriction on the Skype for iPhone app is in violation of federal law.

If it is in violation (or rather, if AT&T's requirement that led to the software being restricted is in violation), wouldn't they already be having problems with their no-tethering rules for some data/internet plans?

Re:What about tethering? (2, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453205)

If it is in violation ... wouldn't they already be having problems with their no-tethering rules ...?

That comes apart into two issues:

  1) Wouldn't no-tethering rules also be in violation?

IMHO: Yes.

(If it's a bandwidth issue they should cap the sustained data rate in the plan and its pricing, not distinguish between the handset with crippled apps and an attached device that is likely to impose higher loads.)

  2) Wouldn't they already be having legal issues over them?

Not necessarily. The affected consumer constituency for full functionality over a tether is smaller. Also the violation of the policy is less obvious.

The limits on the Skype app are an obvious attempt to protect the billing structure of the old phone-call infrastructure by suppressing the development of VoIP over broadband, in violation of the FCC's policy. As such it has both an obvious violation AND a much larger constituency of consumers who are harmed by the policy - anybody using an internet-enabled cellphone capable of running the Skype or another VoIP app. So the pressure is on for the FCC to act.

Once the precedent is established, the tether-users can try to expand it to force removal of the tether limits.

Let the big army with the just cause break the first hole in the empire's wall. B-)

Where on the App Store is this "Skype"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452271)

I've searched for Skype on the App Store and I'm not seeing any official Skype app. Does anyone know the full exact name of the application on the App Store?

Re:Where on the App Store is this "Skype"? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452451)

I've searched for Skype on the App Store and I'm not seeing any official Skype app. Does anyone know the full exact name of the application on the App Store?

It's called Skype, just Skype.

http://www.apple.com/iphone/appstore/

Under "Top Apps" press Free, it's the first result.

Where does the policy state... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452275)

That application developers have to develop their applications to be used in all possible circumstances? It says users may use applications of their choice, not that developers need develop all applications so that they may be used by all users in order to connect to the internet by all possible means. If this is some restriction placed by the carrier, then I can see this making some sense (though in that case it would be most appropriate if Skype themselves lodged the complaint). Is it?

T-Mobile in Germany & 1 million downloads (1)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452327)

Some more links on MacRumors [macrumors.com] :
"T-Mobile in Germany, however, threatened [macrumors.com] that it may take action to prevent its customers from using Skype on the iPhone. [...] Skype [appshopper.com] has proven to be massively popular on the iPhone and iPod Touch reaching over one million downloads [macrumors.com] in the first two days of availability."

Re:T-Mobile in Germany & 1 million downloads (1)

gnarfel (1135055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452413)

Can a contract be cancelled because you install your own software (be it to bypass restrictions, install unauthorized apps or anything for that matter) on the hardware you purchased?

This is interesting for another reason as well... (5, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452377)

not just skype...and that would be the wireless telcos policies and various restrictions (hardware and software) and additional fees, etc., surrounding tethering and data transfer in general terms. Bits are bits are bits, they shouldn't be allowed to charge "extra" for moving bits based on what the bits are doing, or if they are traveling through an additional legal device the consumer may own and use. Since when are there different flavor bits, like voice bits, text bits, some web page bits, or whatever? They are getting away with charging different fees for different things like that, when it is all just the same "bits" moving around.

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (3, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452651)

Since when are there different flavor bits, like voice bits, text bits, some web page bits, or whatever?

I don't mean to defend the phone company (especially AT&T), but there are legitimate reasons to differentiate between different bits, both for the cell company and the consumer.

I want all my "voice" bits to have low latency, and high reliability. I don't mind if my web page loading pauses for a half second; but a half second pause in a conversation is less acceptable. They're both just bits. But most customers appreciate a distinction between the two.

Now, the cell network is not an unlimited pipe. There are a certain number of bits which can go through it over a specified period of time. But, people have an almost unlimited capacity to use all available bandwidth. So, you have to find some way to ration that bandwidth, while still retaining the distinctions between different "flavors" of bits.

AT&T has outright banned some activities on the iphone (tethering, 3G skype, 3G VOIP in general), as a way of rationing that limited bandwidth. They could also choose to implement price discrimination: charging customers more to tether, for example.

But, ultimately, they have to find a way to bring the "bandwidth actually used" number to at or below the "bandwidth available" number. All the while respecting the expectations of the consumers regarding different "flavors" of bits.

Now, you could just say, "To hell with it," and remove all caps and restrictions, making every bit equal. But, you'd lose customers as people get pissed at the terrible voice quality.

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452897)

I would argue that bits are STILL bits.

AT&T provides voice service over their GSM network, they do not provide VOIP over their 3g network. I am used to seeing half second pauses when loading pages (ok, I use verizon...*multi*second pauses) over 3G and at this point it doesn't bother me too much since I am still astounded that I am getting quick internet in my pocket (although when I was testing an AT&T blackberry, the network was much more responsive).

Being familiar with my web browsing speeds, I would probably recognize that my skype calls are going to break up and choose to use the real phone instead. AT&T has no obligation to treat bits differently (I would prefer they are all the same thank you very much)and I feel like with their current 3g performance, treating all bits the same is the best way to prevent people from using skype.

The tethering thing is still bull shit. I understand that they are trying to tier prices based on use since laptop users probably use more bandwidth than a guy with a number-key only phone but they are doing it wrong. A better option would be to allow anyone to tether...and charge them for it (though people here would probably get mad). Offer capped plans with tethering enabled and feel free to charge people for overuse...offer a truly unlimited plan priced above that (the people who just want to play around can use a capped acount and just not go over...the serious users should be able to pay for unlimited)

You could also distinguish service QoS... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453337)

Now, you could just say, "To hell with it," and remove all caps and restrictions, making every bit equal. But, you'd lose customers as people get pissed at the terrible voice quality.

Or you could sell a plan that honors QoS tagging and includes a small (good for a VoIP connection) rate of high QoS packets - with high QoS packets exceeding the contracted rate demoted to "best effort". (And yes it's OK to rewrite the type-of-service field.)

Then the limited-but-quality-sensitive VoIP (or whatever) stream(s) can go through, whether they're the carrier's calls or VoIP/streaming apps, the file transfers (and any excess streaming traffic) get "use what's left and take the quality hit", and both the carrier's and the customer's interests are protected.

Except for the carrier's interest in overcharging for voice transport, of course. B-)

Re:You could also distinguish service QoS... (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454381)

You're just being silly. There's no way that a tightly-provisioned radio packet service could ever be made to service both latency-sensitive and bulk traffic at the same time. Ignore the fact that this is essentially what's done (albeit in larger increments) with current voice vs. data cellular connections, and that GSM supports provisioning of (essentially) arbitrarily sized channels, and that EGPRS/3G support dynamic binding to several channels at once to form a single connection, thereby allowing you to have access both to low-latency dedicated bandwidth and non-dedicated, as-available, high-throughput channels at the same time without any fundamental changes to the cellular network.

What's really important here is that they're making good money selling it the way it is, and therefore what you suggest is "not possible" until that changes.

Re:You could also distinguish service QoS... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454677)

You're just being silly. There's no way that a tightly-provisioned radio packet service could ever be made to service both latency-sensitive and bulk traffic at the same time.

Garbage. (And I work for a company that makes some of the boxes in question, in the applicable section of the engineering department. They may not be doing it NOW. But it's NOT HARD. And doing such stuff is our bread-and-butter.)

(I'd describe how but I might need to keep it close to my chest due to patent issues.)

What's really important here is that they're making good money selling it the way it is, and therefore what you suggest is "not possible" until that changes.

We're on the same page there.

But go about three stories down on the slashdot front page and you'll see the story where the FCC may be about to force them to write terms-of-service where they'll have to drop that sort of pricing and restrictions. Then they'll be in a position where they'll pretty much have to go to such a traffic model to maximize their own use of the bandwidth.

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (1)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453393)

Then they shouldn't market the data plan as "unlimited". It's simply false advertising.

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (2, Interesting)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453735)

I understand that there is a difference between the QOS settings for voice and data. That makes sense. I don't think anyone is saying that they have to stop differentiating between voice and data, but if I choose to use my data connection to run VoiP (assuming I'm willing to put up with the increase in skipping, if there is one) or to tether to my laptop then that should be my decision to make, not theirs. They have no business even knowing what kind of software/hardware I'm using on my end of the wireless connection.

The idea that a laptop, inherently, uses more bandwidth than a smart phone is just pure bull-crap. A laptop or smartphone uses only as much bandwidth, at any given time, as the cell phone company has set their servers/towers to provide. If they sell an "unlimited" plan then I have every right to run my smart phone at max bandwidth 24/7 if I choose to. Otherwise, they shouldn't be calling it unlimited. They could implement usage caps if they're afraid of people over using they network, but they choose not to. Instead, they try to run a bait-and-switch scam by selling you a connection that is supposed to be "unlimited" 128kbps-384kbps (grabbed from an above post as the rated speeds for 3G) and then, artificially, ban selective applications that, if used, might require them to, actually, hold up their end of the bargain.

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453227)

Different bits have different link characteristic demands. Go look up QoS.

In theory they _could_ introduce high jitter to their 'data' service.

i.e. Artificial jitter.

Text Web bits would still do fine, and web users would never notice, due to TCP's characteristics, but the link would be unusable for 'voice bits', without some type of caching or shaping at both ends (that would also terribly compromise the experience), to compensate for the intentional conditioning of the link.

'Text' as in SMS are a totally different protocol and require totally different handling by the provider from 'web' data bits, so it's understandable it would be priced separately.

(Although charging per-message is clearly a farce. It's almost like your ISP charging you for by the packet for every e-mail you send or that someone sends you, whether you wanted them to send it to you or not.)

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453819)

Yea, and if anyone could ever force the release of documents proving they had, intentionally, crippled their internet access to maintain their voice business they'd be in a world of hurt similar to, or much worse, than this could turn into. That's the kind of stuff the FCC and the FTC exist to step on.

As for SMS, you're right. It is a separate protocol, but not in the way you seem to be suggesting. SMS exists because there happened to be unused fields in the header of digital voice service packets. That means that that data is sent every time your phone connects to a cell tower for any reason whether you send a text message or not. The end result, is that txt messages don't just cost the cell phone company less than broadband, they cost the company $0.00. Yup, that's right nothing, noda, zip, zilch.

Besides, the idea of saying that the difference in protocol makes the bits of digital data, somehow, different is a farce in-and-of itself. The only thing that should differentiate any of this is the fact that the actual voice data (not the txt messages) requires QoS priority. However, no-one is suggesting that they be forced to stop providing voice service on a different tier of pricing. On the other hand, if I decide to use the "unlimited" data plan they sold me to run VoiP then, as long as I'm willing to accept the increase in skipping that may or may not happen, I should be free to do so without their permission.

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454641)

'Text' as in SMS are a totally different protocol and require totally different handling by the provider from 'web' data bits, so it's understandable it would be priced separately.

Once upon a time. SMS over a GSM bearer, yes. Most phones these days, most provider settings, in the days of ubiquitous EDGE and 3G networks will use SMS over a GPRS bearer, which is essentially data in the sense that you might consume TCP/IP.

Re:This is interesting for another reason as well. (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454753)

The problem of delivering text message to the right place is a hell of a lot more complicated, and a lot more expensive than TCP/IP routing. IP routing is fairly trivial; there is commodity equipment for this, and the databases are fairly small.

With SMS routing, the databases would be massive.

The difference is still at least as big as the difference between customer using an ISP's mail server, and the customer using a third-party provider's mail server.

The cell carriers have to provide the storage, processing, and routing required for SMS messages for them to sucessfully get from point A, to point B.

SMS is not just a peer-to-peer protocol where your phone figures out an IP address of the phone you're sending a message to and sends packets that blindly get routed to it.

You transmit the SMS to your provider.

Your provider has to store the SMS message somewhere until it can be delivered, and then attempt to figure out where to route it to, depending on if the destination number belongs to the same provider or not, and what area the destination number is in, etc.

If you have a cell phone, you can be almost anywhere in the world.

To get that message to you, your local cell site needs to somehow figure out there's a message for you, that you haven't gotten yet.

It means some central intelligence is required on their network. There are various ways they could go about implementing that, all ways are expensive (though not very expensive per message).

At bare minimum, they need databases to hold the messages that haven't been delivered yet, and databases that tell them _where_ cell phones are connected from on their network.

When a Verizon subscriber sends a SMS to a T-Mobile subscriber, they have to have some other database to consult for that, as well.

hypocrites (2, Informative)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452417)

'consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice' in order to 'preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet.'"

So AT&T/Apple get to create an effective monopoly by tabooing the use of the iPhone with other services, but their fanboys are up in arms when Skype provides a service that doesn't use 3G?

If anything, consumers should be weary of 3G lock-in. Who cares if an app only works via wifi? Why the hell would you use voip on your phone if you are already paying for the phone connection? Isn't that antithetical to any reason consumers would prefer voip to more traditional solutions?

Re:hypocrites (2, Insightful)

gnarfel (1135055) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452443)

Because some calls (other skype users...) are completely free, with unlimited time.

Re:hypocrites (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452473)

Ahem. I am an iPhone user. I am not a fanboi. There are millions of other iPhone users just like me, you just don't hear from us over the high pitched whine that the minority of users put off.

Just because I like owning an iPod and I feel that the iPhone has a superior browsing experience than any other mobile device out there does not mean that I defend the devices inadequacies to the death. In fact, I think the thing fucking sucks for doing much other than surfing the web and playing media. Thankfully that's what I use it for the most and thus it's fine for me. I put it into the same bucket as using Windows. The OS works and is supported very well. It has its faults and those faults suck but it does what I need it to do easily and it works well enough. *shrug*

Please don't assume that just because a small portion of users of Foo rant and rave about its wonders that the rest of us are like that.

Re:hypocrites (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452715)

I think the thing fucking sucks for doing much other than surfing the web and playing media.

I feel it's the other way around for my BlackBerry Curve 8330. It was a choice between the BB and iPhone. So I chose the superior business functionality that it provides. At least MP3 playback isn't so bad. :-/

Re:hypocrites (2, Insightful)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453113)

In fact, I think the thing fucking sucks for doing much other than surfing the web and playing media.

/boggle

That's rather pathetic on Apple's part, then. You'd think that a device called the iPhone would be a good, y'know, phone.

Re:hypocrites (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453827)

You'd normally only think that if the device had physical buttons that you could press without looking. Otherwise you'd think "what the fuck kind of phone is this?" Most voice dial sucks...

Re:hypocrites (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453365)

Maybe VoIP is more economical, more cost-effective, and most people would rather use it, due to it being cheaper?? If a call is getting bad characteristics, it's certainly convenient to be able to hang up, and call them back over the GSM service; think of it as redundancy, when the signal gets so poor or the connection gets so bad that VoIP doesn't work.. it's nice to have a backup plan!

Ok, let's say I have an iPhone. Where can I get the data plan that doesn't include or make me pay for any phone service, only the ability to use VoIP ??

Or where can I find a VoIP-only smartphone that can connect to the cellular network using 3G that I can get a data-only plan for (so I don't have to pay extra for the regular phone service I have to use)?

Just because I pay for cable TV service, doesn't mean my TV should disable its ability to use an antenna, should I ever want to.

Just because I pay for a land line, for whatever reason, doesn't mean Skype should refuse my business, when I want to utilize VoIP on my PC or other device.

Re:hypocrites (1)

chenjeru (916013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453615)

Why the hell would you use voip on your phone if you are already paying for the phone connection?

Two words: international calling.

Also, I don't know the details of your mobile plans, but here in Holland I have limited calling minutes, but unlimited data per month. Free Skype = no wasted phone minutes.

Re:hypocrites (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453821)

If anything, consumers should be weary of 3G lock-in. Who cares if an app only works via wifi? Why the hell would you use voip on your phone if you are already paying for the phone connection? Isn't that antithetical to any reason consumers would prefer voip to more traditional solutions?

Quick example of why: My parents are moving to Ethiopia soon. AT&T will charge $1.19 a minute for a call. Skype will charge $0.458 a minute. If I can use plan minutes and Skype, I'll spend less than half the money to talk to them on the phone. And I'd still be able to talk to them anywhere, not just someplace where I can get a wifi signal.

This is a bit of an extreme case, but all the numbers are real.

I am waiting for the day. . . (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454025)

. . . when some entreprenuer starts a mobile TCP/IP *only* mobile communications company. Honestly, the current mobile co.s have the most insane pricing structures based on this incredibly convoluted notion of artificially seperating and billing for different types of digital data. What utter rubbish. Voice, text messages, instant messages, email, pictures, or MP3s - it's all data.

Seems to me that all you need is TCP/IP with QoS/Traffic Shaping to make sure that voice calls get priority on your network. Then, simply sell people Megabytes instead of minutes, texts, and 'data'.

I for one would be happy to have an all tcp/ip cell phone using something like SIP for the voice portion of communications, and pay, I dunno, maybe something like $20/mo for 500MB, $30/mo for 1GB, $40/mo for 2GB, etc. (I'm not saying that would have to be the exact pricing structure - just giving an idea of what I might find reasonable, as a consumer).

Nice and simple, no need to complicate matters with all this artificial segregation of traffic.

Re:hypocrites (1)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454395)

Why the hell would you use voip on your phone if you are already paying for the phone connection?

International calls? Video in the future might be cool too. You really don't have to try too hard to come up with some decent reasons.

Please step away from the soap box... It's slippery up there and you might hurt yourself.

FreeSWITCH can speak to skype via mod_skypiax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452465)

You should check it out http://www.freeswitch.org

Also check out ClueCon http://www.cluecon.com

Thank You (2, Interesting)

MikeD83 (529104) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452481)

Maybe now consumers will actually get to use their devices. I have a Blackberry from Verizon and the ex parte filing addresses 1 of my concerns: tethering. If I pay for an unlimited data plan... why can't I tether?
My second issue isn't mentioned but seems anti-consumer. Why can't I use the GPS on my Blackberry Pearl in Google Maps? I even pay for the stupid VZ Navigator software and Google Maps still can't use the GPS.

Re:Thank You (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452553)

"Why can't I use the GPS on my Blackberry Pearl in Google Maps?"

Is it possible that it's Google's choice? I know that the free version of Google Maps on my desktop computer does not support a USB-based GPS, but the "Pro" version of Google Maps does. Do they have a paid version?

Re:Thank You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452727)

"Why can't I use the GPS on my Blackberry Pearl in Google Maps?"

Is it possible that it's Google's choice? I know that the free version of Google Maps on my desktop computer does not support a USB-based GPS, but the "Pro" version of Google Maps does. Do they have a paid version?

Verizon blocks it on the policy end. You can use a bluetooth enabled GPS unit with google maps on the phone, however. Not very helpfull, 'eh?

Re:Thank You (1)

Kormac (466376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452699)

Update your phone (OS 4.5) & Google maps. Verizon unlocked GPS for the Pearl 8130 shortly after the Storm shipped, and it required a code change in Google maps (regular GPS is unlocked, assisted GPS is still locked to VZNav).

The 8130 OS 4.5 ("device software") can be downloaded from http://vzw.smithmicro.com/blackberry/ [smithmicro.com] and Google Maps can be updated from http://m.google.com/maps [google.com] Kormac

Re:Thank You (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452837)

Your cellular provider distinguishes between unlimited mobile device internet and laptop grade internet ( bad term but you get my meaning). A cell phone will have a much harder time 'wasting' bandwidth versus a full on PC with a full OS. Its a dubious distinction that will absolutely need to be adressed as the lines between a full-on computer and a mobile device continue to blur.

Re:Thank You (1)

cmburns69 (169686) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452927)

The point remains: why is it called "unlimited" if it's not meant to be unlimited.

Use other more open providers then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452557)

Someone port Wengo or Gizmo5 to iphone, quick!
1. Wengo phone http://www.wengophone.com/index.php
2. Gizmo5 http://gizmo5.com/pc/

FreeSWITCH Can Speak to Skype Via mod_skypiax (1)

mercutioviz (1350573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452613)

The Jajah devs made this point just yesterday: http://digg.com/software/FreeSWITCH_Skypiax_Skype_For_All [digg.com]

I highly recommend you check it out. We can use OSS software to force the *opolies to get with the times.

www.freeswitch.com -MC -- See you at ClueCon! www.cluecon.com

So what exactly happens if these guys win? (1)

allanc (25681) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452657)

My guess is that if the FCC declares that Skype has to be allowed to work over 3G too, AT&T will force Apple to drop it from the App Store so people won't be able to use Skype even on WiFi.

So...not really a win.

Re:So what exactly happens if these guys win? (1)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 5 years ago | (#27453413)

And then the FCC will retaliate for culpable malfeasance.

Taking your ball and going home doesn't work when you're using public airwaves, and there are people around with the persistence and the means to file proper complaints.

i just got off the toilet (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27452667)

i shit out an obama.

plop!

Unlimited Plan (3, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452761)

I can certainly understand why AT&T doesn't want you to use Skype to circumvent using minutes if overage charges are their business model. However, they already grossly over charge on data, and many companies seem to be shifting to a $99.99 unlimited everything plan.

Frankly, I think if you asked AT&T if they'd be happy if most of their customers paid $99.99 a month, they'd be thrilled, because it is vastly more than they pay now. And at the same time, if consumers have an unlimited everything plan, they why restrict how they use it? If they want to use Skype to call, as opposed to a normal phone call, then let them.

Be the first company to have the smarts to enable your consumers, and watch consumers to flock to you.

Amazon MP3 on Android: same problem (1)

thisisauniqueid (825395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452839)

Does anybody know why Amazon MP3 on Android will let you access song lists and even previews over the cell network, but forces you to download purchased songs over wifi? I suspect there are similar business shenanigans going on.

Re:Amazon MP3 on Android: same problem (1)

DarkJC (810888) | more than 5 years ago | (#27452999)

It's probably a carrier limitation in that case. Apple restricted iTunes Music downloads to Wifi only until an update sometime last year. AT&T was probably concerned about load on their network from people downloading MP3s over 3G so they told Apple to hold off on the feature until the craze over the iPhone 3G settled down and they had a gauge of how much bandwidth was being used by their clients.

This will be a nightmare if consumer 'win' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27453703)

There is a simple fix to this whole issue from a cell companies perspective. Never offer 'unlimited' internet plans or charge huge amounts of money for them. Charge for every byte of data so that it no longer becomes viable to use skype over standard calling and now consumers are in a worse position.

If you don't understand why skype should not be allowed to be run over the cell networks then I don't know what to tell you. It is not a corporate scam to steal money from consumers, that is for sure.

Be careful what you wish for.

Re:This will be a nightmare if consumer 'win' (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454135)

I think the point of all this is that AT&T is screwing us over hard on the voice prices. People are willing to put up with all kind of crap to get Skype to work, and Skype (let's be honest here) is not even very good compared to a normal mobile phone.

I'd rather see this swing the other way, and have AT&T forced to charge a competitive rate for voice to compete with Skype.

Re:This will be a nightmare if consumer 'win' (1)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 5 years ago | (#27454413)

There is a simple fix to this whole issue from a cell companies perspective. Never offer 'unlimited' internet plans or charge huge amounts of money for them. Charge for every byte of data so that it no longer becomes viable to use skype over standard calling and now consumers are in a worse position. If you don't understand why skype should not be allowed to be run over the cell networks then I don't know what to tell you. It is not a corporate scam to steal money from consumers, that is for sure. Be careful what you wish for.

Thank you very much for your insight, Mr. Randall L. Stephenson. [wikipedia.org]

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