AT&T revises data usage rules

AT&T has changed the terms of service for its wireless data plans, a move that seems to prepare for AT&T's bigger push into subsidized netbooks and could impact what type of applications are allowed to run on smartphones like the iPhone.

According to the new terms of service, data sessions may be conducted only for Internet browsing, email and intranet access, but, the company noted that there are "certain uses that cause extreme network capacity issues and interference with the network and are therefore prohibited." Examples of these prohibited uses include: server devices or host computer applications, camera posts or broadcasts, peer-to-peer file sharing and devices that maintain continuous active Internet connections when a computer's connection would otherwise be idle or any "keep alive" functions.

"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, redirecting television signals for viewing on personal computers, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or supervisory control and data acquisition devices is prohibited," AT&T's new terms say.

AT&T goes on to say that it "reserves the right to deny, disconnect, modify and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network..."

The changes could impact the expansion plans of some companies like Sling Media, which offers software that redirects television signals for viewing on PCs and other devices. According to InformationWeek, Sling Media has been trying to expand its Slingbox software onto mobile platforms like the iPhone. The company said it has submitted a SlingPlayer iPhone application to Apple's App Store but has been waiting for more than a month without approval.

Last month, AT&T announced it was offering a promotional deal to sell netbooks through its own stores, offering netbooks for $49.99 in Atlanta and $99.99 in Philadelphia. The deal is for an Acer Aspire One netbook, which has a 8.9-inch display, 1GB of memory, and a 160GB hard drive. The package includes 200MB of data usage per month. If customers want to jump up to a 5GB limit, the price of the netbook jumps from $49.99 to $99. 

In March, AT&T customer Billie Parks filed suit on behalf of herself and others against AT&T Mobility and RadioShack after she purchased a $100 netbook at a RadioShack bundled with a two-year data contract from AT&T. Her first bill was more than $5,000. The lawsuit accuses AT&T Mobility and RadioShack of common law fraud and violation of state consumer protection acts in connection with allegedly false, misleading and inaccurate advertising of the netbook DataConnect plan.

Fore more:
- see AT&T's new service terms

Related articles:
AT&T offering netbooks for as low as $50
AT&T, RadioShack face class action suit over netbook data plan
How long can mobile operators institute data usage caps?