AT&T CEO Responds To Rumors Of Charging Customers For FaceTime Over 3G

AT&T CEO Responds To Rumors Of Charging Customers For FaceTime Over 3G

We’re probably going to charge for everything we can get away with. Until we can’t.

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.

  • Buster

    “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.” [emphasis mine]

    I believe that is where you are wrong Rob. Telecom carriers are not competitive with each other. At least not on pricing. AT&T pretty much matches whatever Verizon is offering, and vice-versa. It’s terrible for consumers but great for business.

  • zoomos

    This guy does nothing but think about new fees to charge customers.

  • rojomo

    Is it just me or does this guy smile like the Joker (Jack Nicholson version) on Batman. “Ever dance with the devil in the blue moonlight?”

  • Rob LeFebvre

    I believe that is where you are wrong Rob. Telecom carriers are not competitive with each other. At least not on pricing. AT&T pretty much matches whatever Verizon is offering, and vice-versa. It’s terrible for consumers but great for business.

    Totally hear you, there, but are you saying that all other iPhone carriers will charge for FaceTime over 3G?

  • bbeebs

    Interesting that he uses the 1-800 analogy since those stopped being free when we started using cell phones that billed by the minute. That analogy would be better if AT&T planned to bill both the user and the developer. Not that I’d be surprised to see that….

  • Tru Speed

    this is why people jailbreak … <—including this guy

  • AndrewMclave

    Big banks ,big oil, big telecomunications, all just private tax collectors sick with greed! White collar muggars should be vilified by all good folk and in this digital age the little people everywhere can stand together if we would only do it! Enough is Enough I say! mass protest is the way but you dont need to cram everyone into wall st physically! If all At&t slaves just act as one voice, dont pay next months bill, pay the one after and keep on doing that till they have to listen! or even in one city or state at a time! Turn their money supply of and like the junkies they are, they will listen! Think creatively, find a work around, or failing that, HACK the bastards where it hurts them the most! Their pockets! The world needs a lot more people with Bradley Mannings guts and commitment and sense of right and wrong if its ever going to get less sucky in our lifetime! The phone company is as good a place as anywhere else to start with what needs to be done! But the truth is we need to act as one body politic to be herd over all the backround noise! A real living bot-net if you will with a universal mind! (and a fucking killer soundtrack too) ( if nothing else, its a killer idea for a game)

  • Buster

    @Rob

    Totally hear you, there, but are you saying that all other iPhone carriers will charge for FaceTime over 3G?

    Yep. If AT&T does it, Verizon will follow suit. Just like they’re both kicking their customer’s off of grandfathered unlimited data plans by saying 4G plans are different so customers will have to get a new data plan and “oh yeah we don’t have an unlimited 4G data plans…saaawry!”

  • zviivz

    This is a perfect example of corporate greediness destroying innovation!

  • hanhothi

    One look at the guys phoney smile tells us everything. He is out to screw you for as much profit as he can, it is his job!

  • prometheus1981

    I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but do you really feel that you will get great cell phone service for your smart phone leaving AT&T for another carrier? I hate them too but where do we go? I cannot find a decent carrier that will provide the service that AT&T does? Also, if you did not leave because of the unlimited data was dead, how much important is it to have facetime over 3G for you to leave AT&T?

    Again, I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, I just want to know — in case I decide to do the same ;)

  • MacHead84

    I called ATT yesterday to voice my opinions of this crap….I suggest everyone do the same thing.

  • yoxyvo

    Facetime over tiny bandwidth at a cost? No thanks. It’s going to suck out of the box anyway.

  • David Edwards

    Glad I dropped AT&T and left for Verizon. Though Verizon will probably follow AT&T.

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, Creative Screenwriting, Shelf-Awareness, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef, and send him a cookie once in a while; he'll really appreciate it.

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