AT&T responds to FaceTime over cellular issue, says it's not violating net neutrality rules

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from Omaha, NE
Published: August 22, 2012

AT&T logo

Last week, AT&T revealed that while it won't charge an extra fee for iOS 6 users to make FaceTime calls over a cellular connection, only customers on the carrier's upcoming Mobile Share plans will be able to take advantage of the feature. The news prompted some to speculate that AT&T might be violating the FCC's net neutrality laws with the decision, but today AT&T said that that's not the case. In a post on the AT&T Public Policy Blog, Bob Quinn, the carrier's chief privacy officer and SVP of regulatory issues, described those claims as "another kneejerk reaction." Quinn says that AT&T's decision to make FaceTime over cellular a Mobile Share-only feature violates neither of the two net neutrality rules for providers of mobile broadband. The first is transparency, which Quinn says is not an issue as AT&T's FaceTime policies are fully transparent.

The other rule relates to a requirement that prevents a provider from blocking apps that compete with the their own voice or video services. Quinn argues that the rule doesn't apply to the availability of preloaded apps, but is meant to address whether customers are able to download voice and video apps, and that there is no problem related to blocking in this situation. The exec goes on to say that AT&T is "broadening" its customers' ability to use FaceTime but is limiting its use over a cellular connection to Mobile Share plans "out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience."

It's no surprise to see AT&T stick to its Mobile Share guns in this situation, and I'm sure that it'd take something big (like a mass exodus of customers or some sort of FCC intervention) to get it to change its stance. FaceTime over cellular won't be available to the public until iOS 6 drops this fall, so for now any AT&T subscribers interested in using the feature can sit back and watch how this situation plays out. The new Mobile Share plans that AT&T will require for FaceTime use over a cellular connection are due to launch tomorrow, August 23. What do you all make of AT&T's statement? Do you think requiring a Mobile Share plan for FaceTime over cellular is a violation of the FCC's net neutrality rules, or do you side with AT&T on this issue?

Via AT&T Public Policy Blog