AT&T: Because FaceTime Is Built Into Your iPhone, We Can Block It And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

AT&T: Because FaceTime Is Built Into Your iPhone, We Can Block It And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

If you’re an AT&T customer, you’ll need a certain plan to enjoy this with a data connection.

AT&T upset a lot of customers when it revealed that it would only allow those subscribed to its new Mobile Share data plans to access FaceTime over 3G/4G on their iOS devices. Today it has responded to that upset by explaining that because FaceTime is a feature built into the iPhone — and not one that is downloaded by the user — the company can disable it as it wishes and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The carrier published a lengthy response to the fiasco on its blog this morning. The bottom line of it is that it’s still going to restrict FaceTime over 3G/4G to certain customers, and that because the FCC’s net neutrality rules don’t apply to pre-loaded apps, the company can get away with it.

The statement read:

The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones.  Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps.  Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services.   AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems. (I won’t name any of them for fear that I will be accused by these same groups of discriminating in favor of those apps.  But just go to your app store on your device and type “video chat.”)  Therefore, there is no net neutrality violation.

What these means, then, is that if FaceTime was a downloadable app, AT&T couldn’t block it — just like it can’t block other video calling services that use your data connection like Skype or Tango.

To me, it shouldn’t be about whether or not AT&T’s move is legal, it should be about the impact it has on its customers. It’s unlikely FaceTime is going to have any major impact on the carrier’s networks — after all, who really uses it all that often? — so it has decided to block the feature and charge you extra for it simply because it can.

Related
  • Speech_Geek

    Seriously, when AT&T pulls stunts like this it makes me hate them. But the fact that they’re cheaper than Verizon makes me stay :/

  • Excalibur025

    I’m somewhat surprised that Apple hasn’t threatened to retract the iPhone deal with AT&T. Last time I checked, costumer abuse isn’t in Apple’s motto. The iPhone was designed for FaceTime. That’s a major selling point. Doesn’t it drastically hurt iPhone sales?

  • Tallest_Skil

    Get bent, AT&T.

    So you’re saying you’re legally allowed to block all smartphones from making calls because “the phone app is built in”? Or from using the Internet because “the browser is built in”?

  • Mr_Jackson2

    I think it would be awesome if Apple pulled FaceTime as a built-in app and put it in the app store for FREE. This would stop AT&T’s BS.

  • patstar5

    Really FaceTime ain’t that great. My friend switched from a 4s to galaxy note so I had to get tango. Plus tango has these little party themes and it works on iOS,android, and wp.

  • BigLama

    i dont use FaceTime alot, but the times i do, its nice feature. since i have alot more friends on android, i have tango, and i seem to use that a lot more.
    Im wondering what apple is gonna do, if anything at all. im sure this doesnt sit well with them. or who knows maybe ATT bought apple to keep quiet.

  • John Gervais

    That is a STUPID move.

  • Chris_Gold

    Apple should absolutely make FaceTime a downloaded app. AT&T does not have this same stance on other manufacturer’s devices. For example, I used to have an android phone that came with a video chat pre-loaded and could use it with a very basic data plan. This is discrimination against Apple’s products.

    This is absolutely unbelievable after the whole scenario where they’ve been promoting Andriod phones over the iPhone. I have personally witnessed this when buying my last iPhone.

    AT&T needs to pull it’s head out of it’s A$$! It’s all about the $$$ to them. They couldn’t care less about their customers. All of these issues are starting to add up and, eventually, will end up costing them if they continue down this path. The last paragraph of this article sums it all up…

  • Matt Boblett

    Apple could just use a different model for AT&T (which I think they have, anyway) and not include the apps on that phone. Then, when the phone starts up, just have part of the setup process be guiding someone to the app store and downloading FaceTime. Not only does is skirt this issue, but it also points out AT&T’s poor customer service to every new AT&T iPhone buyer. It could even be a point of distinction at every store that sells the iPhone: “Well, everything is set up and ready to go if you use the other carriers. If you want to use AT&T, you’ll have to download a couple of apps to get the full functionality of your phone. It’s because of how AT&T wants to do business. Oh, you want a Verizon iPhone now? Ok!”

  • Matt Boblett

    Apple could just use a different model for AT&T (which I think they have, anyway) and not include the apps on that phone. Then, when the phone starts up, just have part of the setup process be guiding someone to the app store and downloading FaceTime. Not only does is skirt this issue, but it also points out AT&T’s poor customer service to every new AT&T iPhone buyer. It could even be a point of distinction at every store that sells the iPhone: “Well, everything is set up and ready to go if you use the other carriers. If you want to use AT&T, you’ll have to download a couple of apps to get the full functionality of your phone. It’s because of how AT&T wants to do business. Oh, you want a Verizon iPhone now? Ok!”

  • Shane Bryson

    Seriously, when AT&T pulls stunts like this it makes me hate them. But the fact that they’re cheaper than Verizon makes me stay :/

    The total cost of ownership for an iPhone with AT&T is actually 1 dollar more for two years than Verizon.

  • Shane Bryson

    Really FaceTime ain’t that great. My friend switched from a 4s to galaxy note so I had to get tango. Plus tango has these little party themes and it works on iOS,android, and wp.

    Tango is garbage.

  • ATT_Randall

    Break your contracts ! I freaking dare you ! You’re ETF’s will still pay for my 6th yacht !

  • TheMacGuy

    I’m somewhat surprised that Apple hasn’t threatened to retract the iPhone deal with AT&T. Last time I checked, costumer abuse isn’t in Apple’s motto. The iPhone was designed for FaceTime. That’s a major selling point. Doesn’t it drastically hurt iPhone sales?

    I’m waiting for the announcement of Apple retracting the iPhone from AT&T. At least in my area, the Cell Service SUCKS, AT&T’s 3G data is slower then Verizon’s 3G, and when I called AT&T Customer Service I ALWAYS get the run around. And I don’t live in the middle of no where. I’m in the Greater LA Area and the city I live in has a population of almost 150,000 people, just like the surrounding cities. Not a small area.

    Even if Apple doesn’t retract the iPhone, put in FaceTime as a download in the App Store for free so no other carrier can do this. Nice move AT&T. Just going to get Verizon and Sprint more customers.

  • Jonathan Ober

    After looking over my plan and checking with ATTs family share stuff I am actually digging the move to family share plans. I barely use my unlimited plan (grandfathered in) and we have five iPhones on our plan, shared with inlaws and a friend. I can knock $50/mo off the plan by going to a 10gb shared plan versus two unlimited plans and 3 2gb plans.

  • Dbol_ack

    Maybe all that needs to happen is that everybody still with AT&T needs to wake TF up and move to Sprint or Verizon. I moved to Verizon in October and I am SO happy to be out of that abusive relationship with AT&T. Time for an intervention: AT&T is not going to change! Move on to new horizons. There is more than you know out there, more fish in the sea…

  • Bruce Schrock

    I think this is one of those moves that doesn’t really affect the end user that much, but its just the idea of AT&T withholding something from us that makes customers angry. Kinda like if restaurants would charge a silverware fee when no one else does.

  • zviivz

    I’m definitely leaving ATT after this contract is up! What a baloney!

  • lisaaddae

    Money hungry. Smh.

  • lisaaddae

    The only reason people don’t use it as much is because it was originally on WiFi… so that means u are restricted to FaceTime ur peers at certain place (inconvient).

    Also let us not forget that the iphone did not become the “it” product to have till late 11′ (especially with the major carriers now having such products) MEANING that those who had the iphone at the time when AT&T had it can only talk to their friends who had it also(which im pretty sure was a small number… no fun)

    Had FaceTime been over cellular from the beginning… and AT&T didnt have exclusivity …. imagine how hot it would have been.

    But of course this is all opinions, and based on conversations ive had with people i know.

  • Gadget

    So they could pull the same thing with iOS Messages? It’s a built-in app that all iOS users use. Maybe if they restricted Messages the same way, the CEO could finally get some sleep at night.

  • sschwing

    Facetime came one day in an OS update with was downloaded to the phone. Many phones that have Facetime currently, didn’t originally. The OS IS the app – and therefor AT&T is blocking functionality of an app.

    Boom.

  • bowlingGreen
    Break your contracts ! I freaking dare you ! You’re ETF’s will still pay for my 6th yacht !

    Nicely said, Randall. Except you guys don’t make much off iPhones anyway… I certainly hope you can get the purchase price back from your crazy silly customers.

    Do they know about Skype, or does every app on the iPhone have to come with the phone upon purchase?

  • Bruce Schrock

    Well this escalated quickly! lol

  • John Frum

    Dear AT&T,

    I think this statement of policy is awesome.

    Sincerely,

    A Verizon Customer

  • digitalguy2

    cmon apple make face time an app in the itunes store so all the att customers can use facetime on 3g…. there are a lot of pissed off att iphone customers bringing home the new iphone5 to find out they cant even use one of the best features facetime.. http://facetimefaceplant.tumblr.com/

  • Tallest_Skil

    cmon apple make face time an app in the itunes store so all the att customers can use facetime on 3g…. there are a lot of pissed off att iphone customers bringing home the new iphone5 to find out they cant even use one of the best features facetime.. http://facetimefaceplant.tumblr.com/

    Has absolutely nothing to do with Apple whatsoever. Blame the telecoms only.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , |