Tuesday, August 21, 2012

AT&T Faces FaceTime Net Neutrality Issue

AT&T has confirmed plans to make FaceTime available over its mobile broadband network only for customers who also subscribe to its Mobile Share data plan.

In response to criticism that this violates Net Neutrality rules because consumers should be able to use any app they choose on their data subscription, AT&T argues that Net Neutrality rules do not apply in this case because (1) FaceTime is preloaded on every iPhone on the AT&T network and (2) AT&T does not have a similar preloaded video chat app that competes with FaceTime. In a posting on its public policy blog, AT&T's Bob Quinn writes:

"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."

Earlier this week, Free Press, a public advocacy group working for Net Neutrality (wired and wireless), launched an online petition seeking to change or block AT&T policy on using Apple's FaceTime application over its wireless networks.

FaceTime on iPhones is currently limited to Wi-Fi connections. With the coming iOS 6.0 update, FaceTime is supposed to be enabled from use over cellular data connections as well.

Specifically, Free Press is concerned that AT&T will block the iPhone from using FaceTime over cellular connections unless customers subscribe to the carrier's new "Mobile Share" service plans.

Free Press argues that AT&T's plan to block mobile access to FaceTime for all other customers would violate the Federal Communications Commission�s Open Internet rules.

In a follow-up blog posting, Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner made the following statement:

"AT&T is inventing words that are not in the FCC's rules in a weak attempt to justify its blocking of FaceTime. The FCC's rules are crystal clear: AT&T is not permitted to block voice or video telephony applications that compete with its own services. There is simply nothing in the rules that distinguishes 'preloaded' applications from 'downloaded' applications. It is interesting to see AT&T try this line of defense, as it is tacitly admitting that it is both blocking FaceTime and that the app does in fact compete with its own offerings."

Free Press also runs the SavetheInternet.com coalition.http://attpublicpolicy.com/http://www.freepress.net