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Is AT&T Building the Ultimate Walled Garden? 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-can-checkout-any-time-you-like-but-you-can-never-leave dept.
itwbennett writes "The announcement earlier this week that AT&T joined OpenStack was greeted with much fanfare (of the 'woo hoo for open source' variety). But dig into why AT&T decided to sign up for OpenStack and things get a lot more interesting. 'AT&T is about to take on Amazon's EC2 and S2 cloud services, and OpenStack's technology is going to be the engine that drives it,' writes blogger Brian Profit. 'Leaving aside the potential problems for user privacy here — and oh, there are many to be addressed to be sure — a plan such as this would represent a stunning coup for AT&T, since they would be able to provide the one thing Apple and Google have not been able to have in their respective plans to own the entire stack: the network on which all communications must flow.'"
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Is AT&T Building the Ultimate Walled Garden?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:34PM (#38669372)

    The data must flow. He who controls the stack, controls the universe.

    • by khallow (566160)
      But who will be in that universe and who out?
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:49PM (#38669456) Homepage

      The data must flow. He who controls the stack, controls the universe.

      "You can't stop the signal, Mal. Everything goes somewhere, and I go everywhere. "

      • For the record, AT&T doesn't control OpenStack, and Rackspace doesn't either--- although interestingly, it's situated *right in the middle of old Southwest Bell* territory.Hmmmmmmmmmm.

    • by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:04AM (#38670638) Homepage Journal

      that's why they're doing increasing limiting of "open" internet from their networks - that's where data caps come in. that's how they'll get to control the flow, get to control what data you as a consumer can get.

      the next step is to provide with big fanfare, and of course some small monthly fee, unlimited access to their own cloud services. in that step they'll provide you netflix streaming from their network and they will also make netflix(or similar content provider) pay them as well - the kick is they will still keep saying they're net neutral and that they aren't throttling services based on bribes since on your extremely limited internet plan they don't, that will work as normal but it'll have enough quota to only read dilbert strips - they'll just have premium services that won't be metered and to get to that party you as a content provider will need to provide only content they'll figure is good for their image and . who doesn't love double billing and limited options? users won't, but the network operator just loves this and gives them something to do all year to negotiate on behalf of the users which network services they'll have the honor of using. gives a nice power trip too and which ceo doesn't like that. gives them a justification to do stupidly shitty customized firmwares too, lot's of companies lobbying for that crap.

      this information doesn't come from any leaked memos or private conversations - it's just logical, it's how some 3g network providers started their networks but users wouldn't go for that shit and competition in most markets took care of that such plans didn't fly. fuck 'em - switch operators if you can to one that doesn't try to become the content provider middle-negotiator. but this is what all data caps are about - putting you into a position where the isp's(mobile or landline) competing media provider solutions are starting to look like a good choice.

      the best solution for consumers would be to ban such practices outright, make the network operator compete with what should be their product, with what they were licensed to do: to provide a bridge to the internet. competition can't work if for in order to compete as media provider you'll have to stick shares to at&t's of the world.

      (I think in USA verizon has pretty much publicized such plans though, iirc they ran a system bit like this already though? not from USA so not exactly sure, but you could look into uk threes walled garden shtifest approach from few years back for inspiration too, or any cable company which would rather have you stream payperview from them than from the open internet seas, and fyi in finland one operator did tv over mobile, so that they didn't meter it. nobody used it of course and as all operators were forced to go with all you can eat 3g plans pretty fast anyhow, but before that the operators still had wet dreams about being able to influence which webservices their users use - it was supposed to be a big, big biiiig part of their business to be able to pocket money for that like fucking mobsters)

      • Why is this not at +5, Insightful? This is exactly where the future lies. The incumbent telcos are realizing that they have one thing that no one has (full control over the hardlines) and another thing that means that no one needs to go anywhere else: walled garden apps.

        This is the future, folks. Give it ten years, and only the hardest of the hardcore geeks will even know how to get to the Internet. The rest of the US will be happy forever sitting on ATT's or Comcast's network, never leaving it, and never k

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          This is the future, folks. Give it ten years, and only the hardest of the hardcore geeks will even know how to get to the Internet.

          What was old is new again! I certainly hope you're wrong, you're talking about going back to Compuserve. Even BBSes were better than Compuserve, which is why I dropped Compuserve before finally getting direct internet access. I was on Compuserve back in 1983. Sucky sucky sucky!

          But then, the failed quadrophonics from the 1970s came back as "surround sound", but that's a tad diffe

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          for further proof http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/12/drip-casting-mobile-downloads_n_1203094.html [huffingtonpost.com] , it's begun.

          Such options could make consumers more inclined to watch video on phones or tablets since the biggest U.S. operators, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc , charge for data usage on a metered basis.

          "The idea would be that you don't get charged for certain data because the carrier would handle it differently," Zafar said.

          The ability of the carrier to charge different prices for differing types of traffic could have other applications, too, according to the executive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:41PM (#38669402)

    When I first began using an iPhone ( I had bought the phone used and it was NOT subsidized
    by AT&T ), AT&T added fees to my monthly bill for data service.

    I called them and told them I had no intention of using data service, which was quite true.
    The "friendly" AT&T rep told me that if I had an iPhone "I had no choice" but to pay for data
    service whether IU used it or not, because the iPhone "would use data whether it was switched
    off or not" which is of course utter bullshit.

    Well, my contract with AT&T has ended, and I am going to kiss AT&T goodbye very soon. You see,
    I DO have a choice and it will be a cold day in hell before I ever pay to use AT&T "services" again.
    ( which by the way suck horribly in many areas of the US, of course that is common knowledge in the tech world ).

    I cannot think of a company I have ever detested as much as I detest AT&T. And AT&T provided me with all the reasons why.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why are you proud about your phone not being subsidized. You paid the same whether it was or not. AT&T does not discount for providing your own phone.
      And you brought a phone that actually requires a data plan (how do you think visual voicemail works?). Now you have the audacity to blame AT&T for your blatant stupidity. Now I am not saying They do no wrong, believe me they, when they suck they fucking suck, but your rant says far more about you than it does AT&T.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You can use an iPhone in any country outside of North America without a data plan. The data plan is added because "fuck you we're the phone company".

      • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:34PM (#38670452) Homepage

        Neither iPhones nor Android phones require a data plan to operate as far as I'm aware. Mobile providers will certainly tell you that they do, but it simply isn't true. I gave my old G1 to my stepson and disabled its ability to send data thoroughly (disable APNs, disable mobile data, etc). It worked just fine - it would sync on WiFi and otherwise work like a feature phone on the cell network.

        Things like visual voicemail will probably work just fine without a data plan - you just need to be connected to WiFi.

        Considering that the iPhone and the iPod are fairly similar in features and OS I'd be surprised if the iPhone also would work just fine without a data plan.

        • My other half has an old iPhone on TMobile, no data plan. It works just fine. There's no visual voice mail but it knows the number to call to retrieve it the old way.

          • by oPless (63249)

            I think in the UK only O2 has 'visual voicemail'

            Don't want it, don't need it.

            Why the hell can't I edit/override my own APN data on the iPhone?

        • You don't have a choice with AT&T or Verizon for that matter and then there is tethering. If we don't use their data we should have to pay for it and if we do we shouldn't have to pay for it twice. People say I don't want the government telling me what to do but they obviously need to tell every major provider what to do for billing you for stuff you don't use.

        • Neither iPhones nor Android phones require a data plan to operate as far as I'm aware. Mobile providers will certainly tell you that they do, but it simply isn't true. I gave my old G1 to my stepson and disabled its ability to send data thoroughly (disable APNs, disable mobile data, etc). It worked just fine - it would sync on WiFi and otherwise work like a feature phone on the cell network.

          AT&T's contract with Apple for getting the iPhone first was that they had to require a data plan with it, and a

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            What I did with my N1 is probably harder to do with an iPhone; but the OP shouldn't have been too surprised. Next time they should buy an Android phone that way instead.

            The OP didn't buy their iPhone from ATT, however. Near-monopoly communications providers shouldn't be allowed to enter into exclusive agreements in the first place, but they certainly shouldn't be allowed to extend that agreement to equipment they never sold/etc.

            • What I did with my N1 is probably harder to do with an iPhone; but the OP shouldn't have been too surprised. Next time they should buy an Android phone that way instead.

              The OP didn't buy their iPhone from ATT, however. Near-monopoly communications providers shouldn't be allowed to enter into exclusive agreements in the first place, but they certainly shouldn't be allowed to extend that agreement to equipment they never sold/etc.

              Supposedly they will charge data plans on ANY phone that meets their requirements for requiring one whether or not they sold the phone. I probably am not getting charged for it as I don't ever do any data over their network period, but if you leave the network enabled then they probably get some data and make the detection that you need it and thereby charge you. So I don't know how they make the determination; but I wouldn't be surprised if their contract with Apple was such that they just detect that the

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:07PM (#38669952) Homepage Journal

      You see,
      I DO have a choice

      When you get to your new provider, you will see that sometimes having "a choice" is really no choice at all. When there's only a couple of players, and they're all trying to buy one another, they realize they've got you over a barrel.

      You can try to find the provider that is least objectionable, but you will find that there is no such thing as a telecommunications provider in the United States that is not horrible. You might come to believe one is a little bit less horrible than the other, but when you come down to it, they're all shit. And they can be shit because they got big enough to be able to write the government regulations themselves.

      If you want to see corporate behavior start to change, you have to support a constitutional amendment stating that money does not equal speech and corporations are not people. One would think that those two statements are so obvious that no such amendment is necessary, but there's so much money in so few hands right now that they're able to repeatedly fuck the corpse of the Constitution, over and over, until it will say anything they want it to say.

    • by guttentag (313541) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:39AM (#38670844) Journal

      I cannot think of a company I have ever detested as much as I detest AT&T.

      If you find that this keeps you up at night, might I suggest opening an account with Comcast (when their cable modem died they said they had to send a tech out to fix it, it would take three weeks, and I would continue to be billed for the service they could not provide... Then they actually told me I was bluffing when I asked to be connected with someone who could close my account) or Wells Fargo (they charged me $2 for asking what their branch hours were, and their answer was "we don't know")? Then you can have warm and fuzzy intellectual debates about which one is worst. Enjoy!

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by NotQuiteReal (608241)
        Wells Fargo (they charged me $2 for asking what their branch hours were, and their answer was "we don't know")?

        Bullshit.
        • I bet it's true. An old account I had was $3 per call to customer service, and that was ten years ago. Call them for ANYTHING, it's automatically added.

          The one time I did call customer service, for THEIR error, I complained about the fee and they said they'd remove the charge as a "one-time courtesy."

      • Comcast is probably the worst company ever but it's because the government lets them buy everything. A content provider ought to be separate from a data provider or there is one large conflict of interest but I guess it's OK to help out less than 1% of the population at the expense of the other 99.5% of US citizens.

        So there you go the worst is the US government. They steal more than the rest put together.

    • Most of the tech world happens outside of the USA, in countries like China and India. AT&T doesn't have a lot to say or do in those countries, so people that still live in a free market world aren't influenced by AT&T. You might want to look at what a market economy, or a democracy is and compare it to the USA system if you are bothered by the way AT&T gets to do business in your country. Sure, the rest of the planet isn't perfect, but don't call your one country the world.
  • They just see no reason to spend the $20 billion or so it would take to do it. That's far from chump change, but both doable for those companies. But why build it yourself if you can get common carriers to carry it cheaper than you can build it? And who knows how much dark fiber is already laid out there?

  • I'm confused (Score:4, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz (2515578) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:48PM (#38669450)
    How is this "the ultimate walled garden"? There are no walls. Are they going to stop customers using the iPhone App Store and the Android Market Place and force them all to use/purchase their new "apps"? That'll go down well.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:55PM (#38669516) Homepage

      How is this "the ultimate walled garden"? There are no walls. Are they going to stop customers using the iPhone App Store and the Android Market Place and force them all to use/purchase their new "apps"? That'll go down well.

      According to TFA,

      it would be like CompuServe, if CompuServe owned the phone company.

      So, I'm envisioning this as a text based BBS running at 1200 baud over copper POTS. I really didn't realize that AT&T had a strong retro streak, but the longer I think about it, the more it makes sense.

      Using analog modems at 1200 baud was the last time that AT&T managed to keep up with the data flow. It went downhill from there....

      • Using analog modems at 1200 baud was the last time that AT&T managed to keep up with the data flow. It went downhill from there....

        Yes, but that was not the same company as the one that is called AT&T today. that was a company that was actually competent at what they did (although it was no better at customer service than the current company of the same name...maybe even worse, if you can imagine that).

    • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:42PM (#38670512)
      They already do this on all the non-smart phones. They all have "apps" and "Games" but you can only buy them from the carrier. This, in fact, is exactly the sort of thing they want to do. You can only get video from them. You can only get apps from them. It's all for your own security of course. Those nasty viruses and hackers oh my!
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        They already do this on all the non-smart phones. They all have "apps" and "Games" but you can only buy them from the carrier. This, in fact, is exactly the sort of thing they want to do. You can only get video from them. You can only get apps from them. It's all for your own security of course. Those nasty viruses and hackers oh my!

        All carriers do that. In fact, "featurephones" have always been walled gardens of pain. If you're a developer, you have to make individual contracts with every carrier if you wa

      • I even found one that would let you play music unless it was in mono if you copied it over yourself. Facebook, and email was there, but everything else you had to buy from them. Anymore there are more wifi hotspots than AT&T's 3G towers. So you have a choice but only from one garden to the next. At least Verizon allows sideloading on all of the Android devices that I have seen.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      How is this "the ultimate walled garden"? There are no walls. Are they going to stop customers using the iPhone App Store and the Android Market Place and force them all to use/purchase their new "apps"? That'll go down well.

      the wall is your extremely limited data allowance. figure it out.

    • AT&T will just not allow you to sideload off of Amazon unless Amazon gives them a kickback.

  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @08:53PM (#38669498)
    What I don't see here is inhabitants. There are plenty of examples of vendor lock-in, but these require a valuable service or perhaps "killer app" that lures customers in and keeps them there. AT&T doesn't have that. If I can't use their services to communicate with the world outside (the "walled garden" thing), then what's the lock-in that will keep me using this service? At least Apple and Google have something that could in theory keep people locked in to their respective services.
    • by berashith (222128) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:15PM (#38670344)

      AT&T doesnt have the killer app, but they have the app store killer. The android market place and apple app store give access to customers to developers for the platform. ATT can circumvent those by supplying their own store with access to all of their customers ( which is a huge base). Platform wont matter, and apps written will have APIs into many ATT services... you need identity, music services , TV (u-verse) , all linked in through their own playground with their own tools. By pushing to hmtl5, the restrictions on what gets approved to the iphone is circumvented.

      Most of this article is speculation and wrong, but there is an interesting play by ATT to become more than just a line operator and carrier. The biggest miss in the article is the assumption that wireline services are important to this effort. ATT knows that sending a signal through copper , and renting that access to everyone is not where the big profits are at. They want the 30% cut of everyone else's ideas, and to facilitate the next twitter or facebook from within their control, so they wont just be a simple supplier to the ones making huge profits.

      • by khallow (566160)

        ATT can circumvent those by supplying their own store with access to all of their customers ( which is a huge base)

        Why are their customers going to buy apps? That's not why they're customers.

        • by berashith (222128)

          It is an option that ATT can offer. If I tried to open Joe's app store, no one would bother with it... what could i offer that would give reason for people to choose to shop there, or developers to work with me for marketing? Well, ATT has the reason for devs to go there, to the tune of millions of eyeballs, and there are plenty of those they can re-direct without them realizing what is happening. Many customers will just see an options portal to control their account.

      • I've idly wondered "what random new service could beat out the App store and/or Facebook?" And thinking that the possible answer could be "The Telcos" just really makes me start thinking of whether I want to be in a pit of snakes or a pit of scorpions.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Exactly. All the carriers tried this during the infancy of cellular phones. It didn't work out well for the companies which were behind the curve and tried to continue restricting their users long-term.

      Hell, even Verizon has basically abandoned their efforts at uniform restriction. It doesn't work out well for them: they try to sell it as a bonus, but in the end it's a restriction when advancement occurs elsewhere.

      Also, I still haven't figured out what this has to do with OpenStack. OpenStack is good sense.

      • by Etcetera (14711)

        Hell, even Verizon has basically abandoned their efforts at uniform restriction. It doesn't work out well for them: they try to sell it as a bonus, but in the end it's a restriction when advancement occurs elsewhere.

        I'm not sure who their supplier is, but the Verizon Navigator driving directions are far and away superior to Google Maps here in San Diego (and a lot of CA, it seemed this summer). More than worth the $10/month fee for me. YMMV.

  • by Electrawn (321224) <.electrawn. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:15PM (#38669620) Homepage

    ... Just ask the friendly NSA guy in the datacenter for a copy of your data.

    Seriously, would anyone trust their (cloud) data to T after the NSA thing?

  • In doubt... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by migla (1099771) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:21PM (#38669668)

    To be on the safe side we should all probably always use AGPL and/or GPLv3 for everything. We can always go less restrictive, but motherfuckers will want to pervert the idea of sharing and openness, so just go full RMS from the start and loosen the restraints as you go along, if appropriate.

    That's just 2 cents that happened to drop into my drunken brain at this period in history, and they seem like they're making sense.

    • by Teckla (630646)

      Ah, good old Slashdot. Pro GPL comments always go +5, Insightful and anti GPL comments always go -1, Troll, no matter what. This will be no exception, but I feel compelled to respond in case there is anyone left on Slashdot that is not completely brainwashed.

      To be on the safe side we should all probably always use AGPL and/or GPLv3 for everything. We can always go less restrictive...

      No. No, no, no. A thousand times no. GPL source code tends to attract more and more contributors. Over time, you have so many contributors that "going back" to another license becomes practically impossible, because at some point you can't successfully

      • No. No, no, no. A thousand times no. GPL source code tends to attract more and more contributors. Over time, you have so many contributors that "going back" to another license becomes practically impossible, because at some point you can't successfully contact them all and get them all to agree to a license change. This was RMS's plan from the start -- for GPL to spread in this fashion. If you don't believe me, go look it up.

        When that happens, you can't "go back" to a less restrictive license. To do something as simple as change the license... you have to do a full rewrite.

        This is one reason why I'm not a fan of the GPL -- it becomes increasingly unlikely to ever be able make a license change over time, and I think that's an awfully bad thing for people.

        Well, there's another solution to the issue - and that is Copyright License Assignment/Agreement (CLA), which by the way the FSF requires. So FSF can change their licenses at any time - they could go proprietary with all the FSF/GNU code if they liked as they own all the copyrights for that code. But whether or not copyright assignments are a good thing is still to be decided.

        Linux, on the other hand, is in the situation you refer as they don't use copyright assignments; so everything has to be GPLv2 com

      • by migla (1099771)

        [...]Over time, you have so many contributors that "going back" to another license becomes practically impossible, because at some point you can't successfully contact them all and get them all to agree to a license change.

        Ah, yes, there is that, of course. Good point. All the other contributors are within their rights to not go along with a licence change or to remain unreachable in the future.

        So, if it is looking like one gets lots of contributors, one should take a look at what they want, lest they'd be "locked in" to the GPL.

        Going less restrictive at that point might attract and/or repel contributors. Not an easy choice, perhaps, but going BSD-like from the start won't offer that choice at all.

        So the original point still

  • by feepness (543479) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:33PM (#38669772) Homepage
    AT&T often doesn't have the network either.
  • Oh goodness no. Speaking from past dealings with AT&T hosting services they are the absolute last enterprise you would want to deal with. By far the worst of about 6 datacenters / co-location facilities I've used. Lowest quality at maximum price. One could only hope that AT&T will at least try to do a good job and offer some real competition in this space. If OpenStack will be driving all of the technology and AT&T just provides bandwidth then perhaps there is a chance for this to work. It
    • by dave562 (969951)

      Which data center were you in? Which other data centers are you comparing it to? We're co-located in an AT&T facility and I am constantly told by colleagues who have equipment in other centers that ours is much nicer than theirs. We've been there for seven years and never had a single facilities related issue.

  • by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:47PM (#38670210)

    Simple Storage Service. S3. There is no S2.

  • Good luck with that (Score:4, Informative)

    by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:50PM (#38670228) Homepage

    Having used their hosting services, I'd be surprised if they could offer anything that would minimally verge on competition, except the part about them owning the wires too. Their hosting servers were abysmal, email sucked and IIRC then - it was cleartext passwords for email accounts. Unless they significantly added/fostered talent in the systems administration I don't think buying themselves into the market will help.

  • by Ramin_HAL9001 (1677134) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:06PM (#38670306)

    Yet another fail for IT World as far as I can tell; I haven't read a single good or informative article from that site.

    When I think "walled garden", I think all services work on a single, proprietary platform, and that platform is owned by one company that controls what services are allowed with that platform, and what services are not. So unless AT&T owned every cable in the world (or even every cable in the US), which they don't, and even if every cable in the world used a communications protocol owned by AT&T (which isn't the case) then there is no platform, and so there can't be any walled garden.

    So this Brian Proffitt guy has blown things out of proportion. A better headline would have been, "AT&T Plans to Throw its Hat into the Cloud Computing Ring." This isn't a walled garden, it is more like, "Hey, we have built large systems interconnected computers before, lets do it again with the lovable OpenStack running on top of it and sell it to guys who want cloud services!"

  • AT&T has data centers all over the globe. They already offer managed hosting services, in additional to traditional co-location agreements. A technology like OpenStack that allows users to self provision infrastructure services seems like a no brainer to me.

  • by buchanmilne (258619) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:50AM (#38672312) Homepage

    "The announcement earlier this week that AT&T joined OpenStack, was greeted with much fanfare (of the 'woo hoo for open source' variety). But dig into why AT&T decided to sign up for OpenStack and things get a lot more interesting.

    Would it be any better if AT&T used VMWare Cloud Director and other proprietary tools instead?

    Why is it that a company that already provides physical server hosting (as most Telcos do) providing better virtual hosting (which most Telcos want to do) suddenly the creation of a walled garden?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because "walled garden" is a buzzword. What else would you expect from bullshit press like ITWorld? Prioritizing synergized deep innovative buzzword integration in headlines and articles incentivizes target audience, which provides better monetization opportunities for social media, increasing RoI.

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