AT&T facing net neutrality complaint over decision to block FaceTime over Cellular

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Much ado was made a few weeks back when AT&T announced that it had decided to block FaceTime over Cellular, a key feature built into iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, for customers not on the company’s Mobile Share plans. When the decision was made, AT&T took to its Public Policy Blog to defend the decision, stating that the company’s move was in compliance with the FCC’s net neutrality rules for mobile broadband access services. Specifically, AT&T argued it was transparent about the move (requirement 1), and that the requirement to not block competing services only applied to applications available on the App Store, whereas FaceTime is preloaded on the iPhone.

Free Press, a net neutrality advocate, is at odds with AT&T over the decision, most likely over the second requirement, and has announced its intent to file a compliant with the FCC over AT&T’s decision. Free Press issued the following statement:

“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 FCC’s Open Internet rules. 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.” – Matt Wood, Policy Director, Free Press

It’s unclear what the timeline is for any FCC response, and AT&T customers looking to get their hands on the iPhone will still need to switch to the Mobile Share plans to take advantage of cellular FaceTime for the foreseeable future. We’ll be following this one closely, as the outcome of the complaint could have some pretty significant effects on what carriers will be able to do in the future.

[via GigaOM]

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