Sunday, April 15, 2007

Slingbox Conspiracy by Time Warner?

I am an avid supporter of Sling Media and their flagship product, the Slingbox. I am living overseas so my Slingbox in Palm Springs is my window to the world of US television. I have been using it for the past 8 months to watch my favorite US shows while living in Ireland.

The Slingbox allows you to stream content from any video source over the internet. While away from your TV, you can view it using their media player, which is available for the PC, Mac and even Windows Mobile enabled phones. You can read this post to see how to set it up and get it up and running.

I have had a fair amount of success with my Slingbox installation. I have it set up at my mother's house, where she has a broadband connection through Time Warner (formerly through Road Runner). The only problems I have had so far have been ISP related.

The first problem that we experienced was that my mother's internet connection simply stopped working. She couldn't connect to the internet at all. Obviously, this would impair my ability to stream content from her home. After a phone call from my mom, a Time Warner technician came over to "fix" the problem.

He resolved the issue by completely disconnecting the router I set up and connecting her network card directly to her cable modem. My mother isn't highly technical, so she assumed everything was OK and let the technician go on his merry way. I really can't blame her. Her cable TV worked, she got her email, she could "search the Google," so everything worked fine in her mind. She had no way of verifying whether my Slingbox was working or not at that point.

The Time Warner technician was either an idiot or only concerned with closing the ticket. Putting a computer directly on the internet with no firewall is extremely dangerous. Removing a router from a home network will prevent other computers in the house from connecting to the internet. I believe he took advantage of my mother's lack of technical expertise.

After a 2 hour call, I was able to get my mother to re-install the router. Luckily, it still had all the network settings I originally set for it. After this, the Slingbox hummed along for another few months.

Now, I am experiencing a different problem. The TiVo is on and working, my mother's internet connectivity is working as well, but I can't connect to the Slingbox. There can only be one of two things going on. My Slingbox is either broken, or her ISP is blocking the port that I opened for the stream. I have tried to connect from work and home and even from my mobile phone, so I am sure it is not a connectivity issue on my side.

I believe Time Warner is blocking ports that they don't recognize if there is a lot of outbound traffic. They may also be using tactics like purposely degrading service for high-consuming customers in order to get them to jump to another ISP. Unfortunately, I won't be able to confirm or disprove this theory until I go back to the States in May. If this is true and if other ISPs follow suit, it will have severely detrimental effects on the success of the Slingbox.

Slingbox, hold tight! I'm a comin'! Don't you a-fret! I'll never quit you!


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