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AT&T Suspends U-verse TV On Xbox Option To Re-Engineer Kit

AT&T's U-verse TV customers currently can't order a hardware kit to equip an Xbox 360 as an IPTV set-top box, as the telco said it's revamping the product to "improve and enhance this functionality."

"We apologize, but the AT&T U-verse TV for Xbox 360 Hardware Kit is not currently available for ordering as we work to improve and enhance this functionality," the telco says in a notice on its website.

An AT&T spokeswoman declined to provide details on what is being modified in the Xbox kit or when a revised version will be available. "To ensure our new customers have the best possible experience, the kits will not be available until the new enhancements and functionality are added," she said. AT&T stopped offering U-verse on Xbox in early October of last year.

AT&T originally launched the U-verse TV on Xbox feature in October 2010. The telco has declined to disclose how many customers use the Xbox kit. As of the end of March, AT&T had 3.99 million U-verse TV customers.

With the feature, U-verse customers are supposed to be able watch live TV, video-on-demand and DVR recordings from an Xbox 360, as well as use the IPTV service's applications and TV menu and use Xbox instant-messaging and chat while watching TV.

AT&T was charging $99 for the U-verse on Xbox kit, which includes a Motorola HomePNA adapter and a Microsoft Media Remote Control, plus a $55 installation fee for existing U-verse TV members. In addition, the option required subscriptions to U-verse TV with at least one standard receiver, U-verse High-Speed Internet service and Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold (an additional $60 per year).

Separately, Netflix last week complained to the Federal Communications Commission that AT&T's U-verse on Xbox feature violates the commission's network neutrality regulations.

The video-rental company told the FCC that AT&T's policy of exempting U-verse video viewing on Xbox from the 250-Gigbyte cap on U-verse Internet customers -- while metering Internet-delivered video services such as Netflix's -- is "economically irrational or anticompetitive," and contrary to the FCC's Open Internet order.

Netflix, in the May 8 presentation to FCC staff, also called out Comcast's Xfinity app for Xbox and Time Warner Cable's TWC TV iPad app as network-neutrality violators.

The FCC excludes "specialized services" such as IPTV services like U-verse TV from having to comply with the Open Internet nondiscrimination and transparency provisions. AT&T dedicates a separate portion of the DSL connection to a subscriber's home for IPTV, while all Internet traffic goes over a separate virtual connection.

However, the commission also said it expects broadband providers "to disclose information about specialized services' impact, if any, on last-mile capacity available for, and the performance of, broadband Internet access service." Netflix argued that with respect to the AT&T U-verse, Comcast Xfinity and TWC services it questioned, "differential treatment of affiliated services [is] opaque to consumers."