AT&T To Face Lawsuit Over FaceTime Policy

Back in July, developers who got their hand on the pre-release of iOS 6 discovered that AT&T will be charging their users if they use FaceTime via cellular networks and not WiFi.  When they tried to use FaceTime via cellular, they were greeted by a restriction notice similar to the notice when AT&T allowed networking tethering for a fee.

AT&T declined to give any details regarding the issue back then, only stating that they’re working with Apple regarding the matter and would inform subscribers when they are ready.

Even before the iPhone 5 was launched, which is using iOS 6, Sprint already stated that they are committed to giving their consumers unlimited data plan which covers the use of the FaceTime app.  And when the iPhone 5 was released, Verizon also stated that FaceTime via cellular will be covered in all data plans.

That leaves AT&T the only one to require subscribers to sign up for its data-sharing plans, which simply means FaceTime is not covered in their subscriber’s current data plan.  This news did not go well with consumers and public interest organizations, as a group of them are filing a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New American Foundation’s Open Technology Institute said in a statement that in a matter of weeks, they would file a complaint with the FCC accusing AT&T of violating net-neutrality rules by restricting the way customers can use FaceTime.

“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 F.C.C.’s Open Internet rules,” said Matt Wood, policy director of Free Press, in a statement. “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.”

AT&T’s spokesman did not respond to the issue but Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president who deals with federal regulation matters stated in a blog post that people who rushed to the judgment and claimed that AT&T’s FaceTime policy is in violations of the FCC’s net neutrality rule was completely wrong.

“FaceTime is a video chat application that has been pre-loaded onto every AT&T iPhone since the introduction of iPhone 4.  Customers have been using this popular app for several years over Wi-Fi.  AT&T does not have a similar preloaded video chat app that competes with FaceTime or any other preloaded video chat application.  Nonetheless, in another knee jerk reaction, some groups have rushed to judgment and claimed that AT&T’s plans will violate the FCC’s net neutrality rules.  Those arguments are wrong,” Quinn wrote.