AT&T Inconsistent With FaceTime
November 9, 2012

AT&T Allows FaceTime For Some, Not All

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

AT&T and consumer advocacy groups have been in a standoff regarding Apple´s FaceTime over cellular networks, and yesterday, AT&T flinched.

Big Blue has now said they will enable FaceTime over Cellular for iPhone 5 users on any tiered data plan as well as their Mobile Share plan. While this slight change is welcome, some advocacy groups are still calling for AT&T to open this service to everyone, despite their plan.

AT&T still has an eye on those customers with an unlimited data plan, however, and is still blocking their use of FaceTime over LTE. America´s second largest carrier also took time to mention that all users could still make FaceTime calls over Wi-Fi, a service which they´ve never controlled in the first place.

AT&T will roll out this “new” service to customers on tiered data plans over the next 8 to 10 weeks, a move which senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs for AT&T, Jim Cicconi, says will help the company gradually shift the load onto their networks.

"To do otherwise might have risked an adverse impact on the services our customers expect - voice quality in particular - if usage of FaceTime exceeded expectations.”

The mobile carrier has also said any of their customers with disabilities will be able to have access to FaceTime over LTE.

Director of the consumer advocacy group Free Press, Matt Wood, doesn´t like Cicconi´s excuse about protecting the network, it seems, saying in a statement:

"AT&T cannot block FaceTime based on claims of potential congestion. There´s nothing even remotely reasonable about that approach.”

Wood also suggests AT&T is simply using this block to prevent customers from competing with their own services and shift their customers to a more expensive plan.

“AT&T's course correction is a move in the right direction, but until the company makes FaceTime available to all of its customers it is still in violation of the FCC's rules and the broader principles of Net Neutrality,” said Wood.

When Apple announced they´d be building the ability to FaceTime over a cellular network into iOS 6, the carriers became something of the elephant in the room. Sprint said they´d allow the video conferencing service to be used on their network– and thanks to their own net neutrality issues, Verizon had no say in the matter– but AT&T had a different approach. The carrier used this service as a sort of leverage to move customers from unlimited and tiered plans onto their new, Mobile Share plans. Any customer who wanted to use FaceTime on their network would have to give up their grandfathered unlimited data plan or any other plan and switch.

Consumer advocacy groups Free Press, Public Knowledge and New America Foundation immediately cried foul, saying AT&T´s new restrictions violated net neutrality laws.

AT&T roundly refuted these claims, calling the advocacy group´s response “another knee jerk reaction.”

Writing for AT&T in a blog post, Bob Quinn explained the company isn´t violating net neutrality because the iPhones still have the capability of FaceTime when they leave the stores.

Consumer advocacy groups have already said they´ll move forward with their plans to take this issue to the FCC if AT&T doesn´t roll out this feature to their customers in a “timely manner.”