Net Neutrality complaint to be filed against AT&T for blocking FaceTime over cellular

Net Neutrality complaint to be filed against AT&T for blocking FaceTime over cellular

AT&T's recent announcement that they'd be blocking FaceTime over cellular unless you're on one of their new mobile share plans has put them at odds with many of their customers. They are now facing a net neutrality complaint as a result.

Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute will be filing a complaint with the FCC in regards to AT&T blocking FaceTime over cellular to customers that aren't on a specific data plan on the grounds that it violates net neutrality. AT&T released a statement recently that argued they weren't in violation since net neutrality only covered third party apps and not built-in apps.

Policy director Matt Wood from Free Press issued the following statement in regards to the suit:

“AT&T’s decision to block FaceTime unless a customer pays for voice and text minutes she doesn’t need is a clear violation of the FCC’s Open Internet rules. It’s particularly outrageous that AT&T is requiring this for iPad users, given that this device isn’t even capable of making voice calls. AT&T’s actions are incredibly harmful to all of its customers, including the deaf, immigrant families and others with relatives overseas, who depend on mobile video apps to communicate with friends and family.”

While Apple could easily release FaceTime as a standalone App Store app in order to circumvent the situation, it would probably put them at odds with the carrier. Either way, if you're on a tiered data plan you pay for data just the same and this seems like a move on AT&T's part to push people towards their more pricier data plans whether they want or need them.

Source: Giga Om

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

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There are 27 comments. Add yours.

Exxod says:

Hopefully the FCC will side with "freedom of data".

Juiceair says:

"..........seems like a move on AT&T's part to push people towards their more pricier data plans.."

Not surprised at all considering it's AT&T. I would like to see AT&T find a way to please it's customer base since it seems other carriers now have the iPhone. Maybe if a few million jump ship, they will work to keep the ones they have.

Allyson Kazmucha says:

Except other carriers are the same. Verizon is forcing people onto a share plan. If you use your upgrade you HAVE to update to a shared plan. The only way to keep your older plans is to buy phones contract free at full price. Same song and dance, different rhythm :(

Dev from tipb says:

Not the same thing, at all. I'm not a big fan of what Verizon is doing there, but they are offering two choices of NEW contracts at the end of the existing contract. Neither new choice is as good as what you currently have, but they are neither changing terms mid-contract nor trying to claim that one type of data is different than another. (at least not here)

AT&T, on the other hand, is claiming that the 0s and 1s transmitted via FaceTime need to be treated differently than the 0s and 1s transmitted via YouTube, or Pandora, or Skype. That is a huge difference, and, if allowed to stand, would be a fatal precedent for net neutrality.

Iocane Powder says:

This is exactly the issue....the provider trying to redefine the price of the product based on the type of usage. It would be like Exxon deciding to sell gas to normal cars at $6/gallon, but charging Hybrids $4/gallon simply because they don't want to invest in new refineries to manage the existing and future demand.

I'm assuming that Apple is getting a sweet deal with ATT for not fighting them on this. As important as the iPhone refresh is right now to carrier contracts, if Apple had declined to provide ATT with the new version because of FaceTime then ATT would have seen a very piss poor quarterly return. I can't see Apple being complicit in this if they are not getting something off the top.....which feels very slimy.

s.davis9 says:

So i share a data plan with my family (4 of us all together) the shared data plan VZE will force people into is something that we voluntarily switched to weeks ago. It save us about $100 a month. Even if we had to upgrade our data plans, it will save us about $85 a month. Maybe its different for people wo are in plan by them selves but i like the shared plan...

trmoney24 says:

s.davis9m i agree. verizon has a tool to compare what your current price is vs what it would look like on the shared data plan. in most cases it saves money if you have about 3 lines or more (also depends if all the lines are heavy mobile data users or not). I am definitely going to switch from my canada share plan once we finish our trip up there.

trmoney24 says:

Allyson, I was able to upgrade 2 lines on my existing family plan that isn't shared data and they let me keep the existing plan. I know another friend that ported his number to verizon and they forced him to pick a shared data plan even though he only has 1 line. He called verizon afterwards and they said he can change his plan once he receives the phone.
I do agree that they are trying to force these plans though since they don't even show other plans on the site anymore. And like how they forced my friend to choose the shared data plan.

iSRS says:

I didn't have to upgrade to the share everything plan. I did lose my unlimited data, but was able to pick a 2gb, 5gb, or more plan on Verizon.

ekimes says:

I think it doesn't matter. They own the network they can do whatever they want.

tbd9181 says:

i'm on mobile share so no worries here

Manofblessings says:

I'm so glad I have sprint service and not AT&T

heberman says:

With Sprint, you don't worry about the amount of minutes you have (free calls to any cell phone on ANY network) and you don't worry about data (truly unlimited - but slower).

I use tons of data and have 5 smart phones on my account. No worries for any of us.

antiRIM says:

The only thing you have to worry about with Sprint, is coverage.

Juiceair says:

Exactly! It's the reason I switched to Verizon. Cost me 30 in ETFs with a year left and I pay $12 a month more. Well worth it considering I actually get coverage and the customer service is way better. Sprint's was terrible, they didn't know how to treat long time customers who always paid their bill on time.

benjimen says:

The whole net-neutrality thing might have traction if AT&T said video-calling could be done at all without one of the newer metered plans, however, they're just applying the policy to FaceTime. Skype will work just fine. While some might prefer to use FaceTime, they can still place video calls over 3G with alternate apps. A waste of time, but something great for tech blogs to write about and get eyeballs-to-ads... ;-)

Dev from tipb says:

You could not have missed the point more spectacularly.

The entire point of net neutrality is the principle "data is data is data." If AT&T is treating FaceTime data differently than Skype data, they are not following that principle.

benjimen says:

You're certainly entitled to your opinion -- thanks for stopping by! ;-)

Dev from tipb says:

As are you -- what you are not entitled to is your own facts.

benjimen says:

Facts are facts, thanks again for sharing your >>opinion<< ;-)

Dev from tipb says:

Yes, facts are facts. Let's look at them:

Fact: Net Neutrality's guiding principle is that data are treated equivalently, regardless of source, carrier, or product.

Fact: AT&T is treating data from two products (FaceTime and Skype) differently. (Source: you)

from 1) and 2), AT&T is violating Net Neutrality principles. QED

If you'd like to dispute #1 and #2, fine. If you concede that #1 and #2 are true, then you may want to explain how any other conclusion can follow. It defies logic. Wikipedia has a easily digestible summary [ ] if you do not care to read the FCC's actual source documents before making a conclusion.

I have lots of opinions, but this ain't one of them. This is just simple, inescapable logic.

benjimen says:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts -- Wikipedia is great, I hope their current scandal doesn't tarnish their credibility :-(

levi10288 says:

As an AT&T customer, I'm not switching to a mobile share plan. I've been with AT&T for 5 years and I don't plan on giving up my unlimited data plan. I have my fiance and her little sister on my plan as well and they have 2GB & 3GB data plans; The price of a mobile share plan would be about the same as my current plan. Makes no sense to lose my unlimited. Hopefully, the FCC steps in here and prevents AT&T from enforcing this, I'm looking forward to FaceTime over cellular ;]

baykine says:

I haven't read much into this whole subject but I just don't understand the point to restricting Facetime over cellular? Facetime is a data app which in my opinion would be a good thing business wise for any mobile company, especially with their tiered customers. As much as that sucks to say in a consumers POV I think it's completely true. Why would AT&T block something that could get customers closer to their caps? For someone like me with unlimited data, it would be great because it makes another reason to use my data plan when I'm not in a wifi area.