AT&T Faces Net Neutrality Complaints
September 19, 2012

Net Neutrality Complaints Over AT&T FaceTime Restrictions

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Last month, AT&T got back in the game of angering their iPhone customers by announcing they would allow FaceTime calls over 3G, (a new feature in iOS 6) but only if customers dropped their grandfathered unlimited data plans and jumped on one of their new, Mobile Share plans.

These plans offer one pool of data for all on the plan at one price, as well as a per-device cost. While some users could end up saving a small amount of money with these plans, many became upset at the way AT&T decided to handle this change. Furthermore, many even began to wonder how the logistics of such a plan would work. For instance, if 2 people on the same shared plan place a FaceTime call to one another over 3G, is the general pool of data dipped from twice?

Soon after AT&T made this announcement, customers took to the Internet to broadcast their frustrations and, soon after, some consumer advocacy groups began saying AT&T could be in violation of FCC Net Neutrality rules by forcing customers onto a service by withholding a feature. AT&T later responded to these mounting claims, saying the company wasn´t in any danger of violating net neutrality laws. Point by point, AT&T rejected any notion that they were in violation of any rules and stuck by their decision to strong arm these old, grandfathered data plans out of existence.

“The FCC´s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones,” wrote AT&T spokesperson Bob Quinn. “Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps. Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services. AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems.”

“Therefore, there is no net neutrality violation.”

Now, the consumer advocacy group who first brought the net neutrality claims against AT&T, Public Knowledge, has joined forces with Free Press and New America Foundation´s OpenTechnology Institute to inform AT&T that they´ll be pushing ahead with their net neutrality complaints, despite AT&T´s claims that they are in the right.

In a statement to AT&T, Public Knowledge and the other groups said: “We respectfully request that AT&T reconsider its behavior and the impact that blocking FaceTime will have on its customers, particularly the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as all who use this application to communicate with family and friends over the Internet.”

“Making mobile use of the application available only to those customers who pay for unlimited voice and text messages harms individuals and innovation alike.”

“We ask instead that AT&T make this core feature of the popular iPhone and iPad devices available to all of its customers, in compliance with the Open Internet rules that “preserve the Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate without permission.”

The newly formed group is required to give a 10-day notice of their intended actions, hence yesterday´s note. The group has also said they plan to go ahead and file the complaint in “the coming weeks.”

Apple will release iOS 6 today, the newest version of their iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch software. Any of these models capable of receiving this new software update is also capable of FaceTime calls, though only iPhones and 3G or 4G enabled iPads are capable of placing these calls over a wireless network.