AT&T Wireless Legally Prohibits the Apple iPhone Users from using VoIP, Steaming Video and more?
SkypeforIphone.com and other neat services are now starting to emerge that aim to really supercharge the abilities of the Apple iPhone on AT&T Wireless. But user-beware. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems that the AT&T Wireless Terms of Service for the wireless data services portion prohibits a lot of things you may not be aware of — including the fact that AT&T can kill your service without notice if they suspect you are using the iPhone for no-no activities.
Here are some of the interesting snippets that outline what you’re NOT allowed to do with your Apple iPhone:
- “EXCEPT OR CONTENT FORMATTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AT&T’S WIRELESS CONTENT STANDARDS…CANNOT BE USED FOR UPLOADING, DOWNLOADING OR STREAMING OF VIDEO CONTENT (E.G. MOVIES, TV), MUSIC OR GAMES” — does this mean you can only use CingularVideo, MediaNet and CingularMusic? Does this kill the ability to use services like Orb that allow you to watch steraming TV from your PC’s tv-tuner-card at home?
- “PROHIBITED USES INCLUDE…FOR VOICE OVER IP” – so using Skype or other VoIP services on the iPhone is out? What if you’re using WiFi, not AT&T Wireless data connections?
- “CANNOT BE USED FOR ANY APPLICATIONS THAT TETHER THE DEVICE (THROUGH USE OF, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, CONNECTION KITS, OTHER PHONE/PDA-TO-COMPUTER ACCESSORIES, BLUETOOTH® OR ANY OTHER WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY) TO LAPTOPS, PCS, OR OTHER EQUIPMENT FOR ANY PURPOSE.” — so forget ever trying to use the iPhone as a modem for your laptop, or what about syncing it with iTunes on your laptop or PC?
There are services like Talkety.com that are being found now that come out to support the iPhone specifically and others like Jajah which harness VoIP technology but perhaps don’t violate the AT&T Wireless TOS, since they connect callers and run the VoIP data on their own platforms, not through the iPhone data connection on AT&T Wireless, thus the calls on the iPhone are handled just like a regular incoming call.
But there are real VoIP for cell phone services emerging that basically detect whether or not a WiFi connection is available, and then auto-switches all voice calls to a VoIP account. One service works flawlessly with one of the newer Nokia cell/WiFi smartphones. This would be a direct violation of the TOS probably.
Perhaps these won’t be enforced, or most users won’t run into these conflicts, since they’ll stay with the mainstream walled garden applications and services provided by AT&T Wireless. . . but in the end, it seems like these Terms of Service prohibitions (this is one of the big reasons why legalese and lawyers can be real stinkers in this country! Why can’t contracts be in plain-English???!?!?!?!) should be added to the long list of drawbacks of the Apple iPhone to be considered before buying one.
Directly from AT&T Wireless Terms of Service:
Prohibited and Permissible Uses: Data Service sessions may be conducted only for the following purposes: (i) Internet browsing; (ii) email; and (iii) corporate intranet access (including access to corporate email, customer relationship management, sales force automation, and field service automation applications). PROHIBITED USES INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, USING SERVICES: (I) WITH SERVER DEVICES OR WITH HOST COMPUTER APPLICATIONS, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WEB CAMERA POSTS OR BROADCASTS, CONTINUOUS JPEG FILE TRANSFERS, AUTOMATIC DATA FEEDS, TELEMETRY APPLICATIONS, PEER-TO-PEER (P2P) FILE SHARING, AUTOMATED FUNCTIONS OR ANY OTHER MACHINE-TO-MACHINE APPLICATIONS; (II) AS SUBSTITUTE OR BACKUP FOR PRIVATE LINES OR DEDICATED DATA CONNECTIONS; (III) FOR VOICE OVER IP; (IV) IN CONJUNCTION WITH WWAN OR OTHER APPLICATIONS OR DEVICES WHICH AGGREGATE USAGE FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES PRIOR TO TRANSMISSION; (V) USING THE SERVICES FOR ANY ACTIVITY THAT ADVERSELY AFFECTS THE ABILITY OF OTHER PEOPLE OR SYSTEMS TO USE EITHER THE SERVICES OR OTHER PARTIES’ INTERNET-BASED RESOURCES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO EXCESSIVE CONSUMPTION OF NETWORK OR SYSTEM RESOURCES (WHETHER INTENTIONAL OR UNINTENTIONAL) AND “DENIAL OF SERVICE” (DOS) ATTACKS AGAINST ANOTHER NETWORK HOST OR INDIVIDUAL USER; OR (VI) INTERFERENCE WITH OR DISRUPTION OF OTHER NETWORK USERS, NETWORK SERVICES OR NETWORK EQUIPMENT. EXCEPT FOR CONTENT FORMATTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AT&T’S WIRELESS CONTENT STANDARDS, UNLIMITED PLANS CANNOT BE USED FOR UPLOADING, DOWNLOADING OR STREAMING OF VIDEO CONTENT (E.G. MOVIES, TV), MUSIC OR GAMES. FURTHERMORE, UNLIMITED PLANS (EXCEPT FOR DATACONNECT AND BLACKBERRY TETHERED) CANNOT BE USED FOR ANY APPLICATIONS THAT TETHER THE DEVICE (THROUGH USE OF, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, CONNECTION KITS, OTHER PHONE/PDA-TO-COMPUTER ACCESSORIES, BLUETOOTH® OR ANY OTHER WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY) TO LAPTOPS, PCS, OR OTHER EQUIPMENT FOR ANY PURPOSE. Service is not intended to provide full-time connections, and the Service may be discontinued after a significant period of inactivity or after sessions of excessive usage. AT&T reserves the right to (i) limit throughput or amount of data transferred, deny Service and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network and (ii) protect its wireless network from harm, which may impact legitimate data flows. You may not send solicitations to AT&T’s wireless subscribers without their consent.