AT&T's FaceTime over cellular restriction could put them at odds with the FCC

AT&T's FaceTime over cellular restriction could put them at odds with the FCC

AT&T's restriction of iOS 6 FaceTime over cellular to shared data plans might cause them to run afoul of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). AT&T won't be charging extra for FaceTime over cellular, but will be requiring what for many could be more expensive plans. Since AT&T doesn't do that with other video calling services, like Skype. Brian X. Chen reports for the New York Times:

John Bergmayer, senior staff lawyer at Public Knowledge, said AT&T was violating the F.C.C.’s Open Internet Rules, which say that mobile providers shall not “block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.”

“There is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime and another not,” Mr. Bergmayer said in a statement.

Following WWDC 2012, when Apple announced they'd finally -- finally! -- bring their video calling service, FaceTime to cellular with iOS 6, early beta versions running on AT&T iPhones showed signs that it might be restricted on that network. AT&T has a history of restricting services like tethering and MMS, so while disappointing, it was hardly a surprise.

The FCC is supposed to regulate the legal oligopolies enjoyed by telecommunication companies like AT&T. So lets see if the FCC does its job here and starts telling all the carriers that a bit is a bit, and once a customer has paid for tiered data, it's their business what they do with it.

Source: New York Times

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

AT&T's FaceTime over cellular restriction could put them at odds with the FCC

13 Comments

I'm a Canadian citizen and I'm happy for you American citizens if this goes through. While our "Big 3" might not be doing this with data plans, they certainly do increase plan prices and we would end up getting less for more. Im always against wireless dictatorship so this is a good move by the FCC.

Data is data is data is a data. Especially if I'm on a plan that limits me to a certain number of GB per month, there is no reason I should be on a specific plan to use those bytes. In fact, tethering should be free because it still counts against your cap. It's like Comcast telling you you can't use Vonage unless you have one of their special plans. BULLSHIT.

If the FCC thinks that service should only be limited when it comes to "technical limitations" where the hell were they when the AT&T and Verizon decided you needed a tethering plan to tether? Will they realize the correlation and maybe put their foot down there too? Naaahhh...

What's missing from this story are lobbyists. AT&T has lots of them. And seeing how the upper echelons of the FCC are political appointees, don't count on anything being done. Lobbyists funnel lots of money to campaign war chests and this is an election year.

Absolutely well said. I'd love to put faith in the FCC, and I'd love for HateT&T to get a boot right up the ass for this nonsense, but your points are unfortunately spot-on. I wouldn't hold my breath on this one, folks. Speak with your dollars and replacement carrier selection.

The part i don't like is this. Facetime is great because you know the other person has it. You don't have to worry if they have a certain app installed. It just works. Now you have to worry if that other person has the right data plan? Is that person on wifi? Oops..can't call them right now. This defeats the purpose.

On the other hand, it eats up data or you don't always want someone facetiming you when out. Some people may want to choose to turn off that cellular option.

AT&T has been ripping off customers for years. Everyone needs to check their data on the first day of their billing cycle especially if you were throttled the previous billing cycle. A month ago AT&T carried over 1.5GB to my new billing cycle. Not only was that data used on a previous billing cycle, it was at throttled speeds??? I spent well over 10hrs. on the phone with them but they did nothing & claimed that data usage may take up to 60 days to get reported. This of course is an irrelevant argument (what matters is when it was used). They admitted fault but did nothing. This month they did it again. It was much less data but it was data from the previous cycle, & once again, this was data at throttled speeds being added to my new 3GB allowance before getting throttled for this cycle. I've contacted the[1] Better business bureau (https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started) & the [2] FCC (https://esupport.fcc.gov/ccmsforms/form2000.action?form_type=2000B) & currently have claims pending with them both. I encourage everyone to do the same. Here is the address for the [3] FTC (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/).
Edit: Here is the website so you can [4] contact your states attorney general (http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/stateattorneygenerallist.php) to also file a complaint.