AT&T Defends Ridiculous FaceTime Policy Amidst User Complaints

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

While T-Mobile and MetroPCS are adding all you can eat data plans for 4G users, AT&T is thinking differently .. defending their decision to not only charge extra for the privilege of FaceTime, but requiring grandfathered users to abandon their unlimited data plans for the privilege.

“The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones,” said AT&T chief privacy officer Bob Quinn. “Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services.”

Quinn goes onto say that complaints are a “knee-jerk reaction” (nothing says customer service like insulting your base) and AT&T is actually doing their customers a service by limiting Facetime to shared data plans because to throw open the floodgates would overwhelm AT&Ts network and the “overall customer experience.”  What a crock.  First off, Facetime will work in the same fashion at Skype, Tango, Oovo and others which would require 3G and 4G access when not within the range of a WiFi signal.  It’s the same transmission pipeline.  Saying that Facetime would greatly impact AT&Ts network but insinuate that others wouldn’t is like saying that watering your lawn would greatly affect how water is transmitted, but washing your cars wouldn’t.  Absolutely stupid.

Secondly, that doesn’t even begin to address that AT&T requires users to not only abandon their existing data plans, in favor of their shared data service (which has stricter caps), but also pay extra for the privilege – to the tune of $30 a month extra with no additional data cap room.  Meanwhile, those ” downloaded apps that compete with (their) voice or video telephony services” don’t.  They impact your standard data cap (unless you have “unlimited” then you’re just throttled), sure.  But nothing extra is charged … YET.

And GigaOm makes a salient point that isn’t iOS6 and it’s installation of Facetime a voluntary download that would qualify under FCC rules?  Apparently not.  AT&T considers an upgrade to the OS, which includes installing Facetime, to be a mandatory and not voluntary function, at least as far as Facetime goes.

But users don’t see it that way and have started an online petition to force AT&T to change course.  According to, AT&T is blocking Facetme over 3G/4G to force customers’ to subscribe to a more expensive text-and-voice plan, which would make it a a clear violation of Net Neutrality and the FCCs Open Internet rules.

“Then there’s the upside-down world of AT&T — where Ma Bell’s spawn sees nothing wrong with making you buy more of what you don’t want just to use something you like,” says Craig Aaron.  “AT&T’s latest proposal is a clear violation of Net Neutrality — the fundamental principle that keeps the open Internet free from discrimination — and a serious test of whether the Federal Communications Commission will protect mobile users.

Craig charges that AT&T wants to force users to pay AT&T more money for less data and unlimited voice minutes just so they can play with Facetime over 3G.  He also cites that the new data plans that AT&T are offering only allow for 1GB of data a month, instead of the existing 3GB cap or the unlimited data plans that some iPhone users are still grandfathered into.  “It’s pretty much an open-and-shut case that this latest move is a Net Neutrality violation,” says Craig.

Frankly, it seems AT&T is using the old “definition of IS is” defense to justify their decision to restrict Facetime access.  Quinn parses the differences between the app being pre-installed on the phone, verses apps that are voluntarily installed by users that would compete with it, and hides behind the fact that AT&T doesn’t have a competing video app.   One is covered under net neutrality rules and one isn’t.  And while he may be correct in that regard, that AT&T is obeying the letter of the law, it’s pretty clear that they intend to violate the spirit of it.


About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.

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