updated 02:30 pm EDT, Tue November 1, 2011
C Spire bars streaming on some iPhone plans
(Updated with policy notes) C Spire on Tuesday said it would join the third iPhone 4S launch wave by releasing its version on November 11. The device, as well as the 8GB iPhone 4, will go on sale at the same contract prices as on other carriers. No mention has been made of an off-contract option.
The plans nonetheless introduce what may be violations of the FCC's net neutrality rules going live just nine days later. The first two plans at $50 and $70 per month officially have unlimited data but explicitly ban any streaming. To get true unlimited data, subscribers have to pay for the $90 or $100 plans.
While rules on wireless networks are looser than for wired networks, the FCC's order forbids blocks against specific kinds of traffic. C Spire may argue that it's restricting only a certain kind of network traffic but will still be hurting Hulu, Netflix, and other such services while allowing iTunes and others that have to download a whole clip.
C Spire may have difficulty keeping the existing rules. Its fellow regional carrier, MetroPCS, has tried suing the FCC to stop the rules and let it discriminate against certain services, suggesting it was fully aware a practice like that of C Spire's would violate the rule. MetroPCS is presumed to be challenging the FCC again after its initial complaint was tossed out for coming before it was legally possible.
Update: C Spire has added that it currently has "free" streaming, like most other US carriers offer as a matter of course, through the end of 2011. Although contradicting its own release, it promises 30 minutes of free streaming each month after January 1. With the current allotment, customers will have enough time for one typical TV show, but not longer episodes, movies, or listening to whole albums on services like Rdio or Spotify.