In August, AT&T announced that it would be providing FaceTime over cellular only for its customers that use a Mobile Share plan, leaving its other customers with the option of switching to a different plan or forgoing FaceTime using 3G or 4G.
Many of us at AppAdvice are AT&T subscribers, and we were all irritated with AT&T’s poor decision making.
Now it seems that we’re not alone – Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute plan to file a complaint against AT&T with the Federal Communications Commission.
The problem? AT&T is violating network neutrality rules by making the service available for only some of its subscribers.
According to the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which first went into effect last November, DSL and cable companies are forbidden from blocking services that they do not like. Such companies must also disclose their network management techniques.
Mobile carriers have similar rules, and are required to refrain from limiting or blocking competing phone and video chat services like Skype.
AT&T’s move to limit cellular FaceTime to its Mobile Share customers is a strategic business decision to force its grandfathered unlimited data plan holders and those who use less expensive individual plans to adopt a new plan.
The company defends itself with the argument that it was open and transparent about the choice, thus following network neutrality rules. It further states that its preloaded apps can be used over Wi-Fi and are not blocked. The Internet advocacy groups disagree.
FaceTime, they say, is an alternate calling service and is therefore protected by all net neutrality rules, which AT&T is violating by denying some of its subscribers access to cellular FaceTime.
The three groups will be able to file an official claim against AT&T in 10 days, now that AT&T has received notification of their intent.
As an AT&T subscriber without a family share plan, I can only hope that AT&T gets in some hot water with the FCC.
For those of you who got an iPhone 5, did AT&T’s choice to block FaceTime cause you to switch carriers?