AT&T responds regarding FaceTime over cellular restrictions

AT&T has responded to concerns about their new FaceTime Over Cellular policies which will require their customers to be on a mobile share plan in order to utilize the feature. While many believe this restriction violates the FCC's net neutrality laws, AT&T doesn't think it does.

While the FCC does restrict companies from blocking apps, AT&T says that only applies to downloadable apps and not pre-installed apps. Since FaceTime comes pre-installed on every iOS device, they have the right to restrict use.

The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones. 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. (I won’t name any of them for fear that I will be accused by these same groups of discriminating in favor of those apps. But just go to your app store on your device and type “video chat.”) Therefore, there is no net neutrality violation.

Whether or not the FCC will agree with AT&T isn't yet clear. The New York Times recently stated that AT&T actually is in violation of FCC regulations and that the carrier can not block applications that compete with a carrier's own voice or telephony services.

Regardless whether the app is pre-installed or not, FaceTime should probably be considered a competing service. The fact that a specific data plan is required in order to use it is another contention point. Data is data and regardless what tier you're on, you're paying for the same bits and bytes. It still begs the question, why should one tiered data plan be treated different than any other? If customers go over their allotment, charge them appropriate overages and call it a day. Forcing customers on a plan they don't want or need doesn't seem to be in anyone's best interest.

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • LOL at anybody that tries to FaceTime on the AT&T network, especially in an area where people live. I can barely make a five minute phone call without the call dropping, or cutting out. AT&T to AT&T calling - forget it. It's like using a walkie-talkie, except those work.
  • Double lol , you're absolutely right.
    They ( AT&T ) should worry more about providing enough coverage for us to be able to accomplish what Alexander Graham Bell invented before forcing us into plans for FaceTime.
  • Where do you guys live, Kansas? AT&T network quality has surpassed even Verizon here on Long Island and in NYC. Let's hate AT&T for the right reasons. Their network improvements have been tremendous and their newer generation LTE network gets download speeds Verizon customers can only hope for... The fact of the matter is: AT&T and Verizon are whores capitalizing on what has become more popular than [voice] minutes usage, data usage.
  • I live in Los Angeles. Trying to make a phone call is impossible, and attempting to use Siri is like talking to Siri's retarded sister.
  • They should have made it only avail on their LTE service.
  • AT&T is trying to force people to data sharing by restricting popular features to only the data sharing plans. Verizon is trying to force people to data sharing by taking away subsidies and not giving new customers a choice. Both are trying to do the same thing but in different ways.
  • Both companies are shady in the way they let you have data. Verizon is pushing the MiFi which does not dlways work. AT&T lets you make the iPhone a hot spot, but has different plans for enterprise, and personal. With personal, you can not look at your business email. I still believe data is data. If you pay for it, you should be able to use it the way you want. Just because FaceTime is preinstalled, should make no difference. If one carrier gets away with something that is not fair, the rest will follow.
  • AT&T figures they can't throttle, cut you off or do anything that will bring on further small claims court lawsuits so restrict features that they know users will want on the tens of millions of iPhones 4, 4S and next iPhone. Verizon has to live with their restrictions so they changed their rules, and AT&T is doing the same. They reduce costs, raise their profits and fail to actually deliver products and services that meet the customers needs. No surprise here.
  • Apple could solve this issue and make users happy by simply NOT pre-installing FaceTime and instead handle it the way it does iBooks. iBooks is not pre-installed, it's installed via the App Store. Come on Apple, give AT&T the finger on this one and make FaceTime an app in the app store rather than pre-installing it. Frankly I think AT&T's stance is bullshit. I think the FCC's rule was designed to only apply to apps pre-installed by the carrier. The carriers don't pre-install apps on the iPhone. I smell a class action lawsuit over this one.
  • That's exactly what I was thinking. Apple needs to stick to their righteous ways, take control, and do whatever they need to do for their customers benefit.
  • I'm just waiting to hear the same thing from VZW. I plan on moving to their shared data plans anyways, but this is just lame that they are forcing people into this.
  • An app is an app just like data is data. Nuff said!
  • With the Obama administration seemingly unwilling to let the FCC move aggressively here, and Romney already having stated opposition to the very concept of Net Neutrality, these sorts or hair-splitting shenanigans are only going to get worse in the USA.
  • Everyone with an AT&T data plan 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 ( & the [2] FCC ( & currently have claims pending with them both. I encourage everyone to do the same. Here is the address for the [3] FTC (
    Edit: Here is the website so you can [4] contact your states attorney general ( to also file a complaint.
  • Simple as this...just given another reason why AT&T will be dropped!
  • Am I the only one who doesnt care about facetime over 3g? Id rather use Skype if I have to video chat on the go anyway....*shrugs*
  • It is ridiculous, isn't it? I use Skype all the time...what is AT&T really think they're getting away with? It's like the personal and enterprise plans. I get corporate email, no problem, on my iPhone with a 3Gb plan, due to our use of an Exchange server with RPC over HTTP. So, since emails are sent using HTTP packets, they're not blocked. I used to not be able to connect to our VPN, but now even that works. My point is you're not stopping anything, just looking greedy.
  • "If customers go over their allotment, charge them appropriate overages and call it a day" If only it was that easy. That was in the days when people were personally responsible for things like going over their phone usage. Nowadays people are children and cry foul when they go over their data or phone plans, or stupidly roam without paying attention to how they're using the phone, and its not their fault but the fault of the nasty service provider for not appropriately warning them. Lets forget that you can check your current data, minutes, or SMS plan usage anytime you want. But again, that requires personal responsibility.