AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson responded today to the recent rumor that the telecommunications company is planning to charge customers for data used in FaceTime calls over 3G. The feature was announced for iOS 6 in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco.
Asked about the rumor at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Stephenson acknowledged the rumor, but then also said it’s “too early to talk about pricing,” which may in fact be executive-speak for, “we won’t tell you how much we’re gonna charge.”
Stephenson was also confronted about the idea of having developers pay for their users’ data usage. The analogy, said Stephenson, is that of a 1-800 number, in which companies pay the telecom fees for callers in hopes of attracting more customers. If a company has “business models premised on traffic,” then, Stephenson thinks having that company pay for data use is an acceptable cost of doing business.
Seems to me that AT&T is really looking at ways to continue its money-making control of all the beautiful connectedness that the era of iPhone has ushered in. We know Stephenson already loses sleep over all the crazy kids using their iPhones to text message each other (without the fees going directly to AT&T, of course).
Look, Mr. Stephenson, I’m more than glad to pay for the ability to use my phone for data and phone calls, but maybe it’s just like having a 1-800 number, in which your company has to subsidize my usage somewhat in order to keep me as a loyal customer. Maybe letting me use FaceTime over 3G or apps that connect to the internet until my paltry data plan runs out is the cost of doing business in a competitive field of mobile carriers. Just sayin’.
Ultimately, this kind of nickel and dime routine will hurt AT&T customers who will, in turn, go somewhere else if they can, maybe even to non-iPhone options (shudder). Perhaps someone from Apple should speak to Mr. Stephenson, CEO to CEO, about how not to hurt a very profitable partnership.