AT&T defends decision to restrict FaceTime over cellular to Mobile Share customers

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Facing stiff criticism over its decision to limit FaceTime over 3G/4G to Mobile Share customers, AT&T took to its Public Policy Blog to defend the decision this morning. AT&T’s Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer Bob Quinn published a post this morning in response to claims that AT&T’s decision violated the FCC’s net neutrality rules, arguing that the company was in compliance with the FCC requirements. The FCC mandates companies be transparent and disclose decisions made related to their broadband access services, and that companies not block applications that compete with the provider’s voice and video telephony services.

Quinn argues that the company is meeting both criteria. The company has been transparent about the decision, and customers will know about their decision up front. The more difficult argument comes around the second requirement. Quinn claims that the FCC’s rules only apply to downloaded applications as opposed to those pre-loaded on the device. While AT&T is placing restrictions on FaceTime, the company argues that since FaceTime is a pre-loaded application, and since there are viable alternatives on the App Store, that there is no net-neutrality violation.

One potentially telling reason for the decision was outlined in the blog post. Quinn states that the potential strain FaceTime over cellular would put on AT&T’s network factored into their decision. The company has long suggested that their network is congested due to the high number of devices using it, and the decision to limit 3G/4G FaceTime to its new Mobile Share network furthers this claim. The company hopes the decision will move customers off unlimited data plans and onto the new Mobile Share plans, which limit the amount of data individuals and families can use in a given month.

We don’t expect AT&T to change course on this decision, and non Mobile Share plan users should expect to not be able to use FaceTime over Cellular when their iPhone gets updated to iOS 6. While we certainly understand the network congestion argument (AT&T’s network is notoriously bad in certain metro areas), it could potentially not sit well with current customers, who may be eyeing a move to competing carriers in light of AT&T’s decision.

[via AT&T Public Policy Blog]

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