When Apple releases iOS 6 tomorrow, it will finally allow users to make FaceTime calls over 3G and 4G data connections. But AT&T has decided — unlike most other carriers — that it’s going to charge its customers extra to take advantage of the feature. Understandably, this has annoyed a lot of people.
So much so that the Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute have warned AT&T that they will be filing a complaint with the FCC against the carrier for violating network neutrality rules.
AT&T confirmed it would be charging for FaceTime over cellular connections back in August, and that customers would need to upgrade to one of its Mobile Shared Data plans to take advantage of the feature. Its decision was met with a lot of frustration from AT&T subscribers, but the company insisted that it wasn’t breaking any rules.
Basically, AT&T said that it’s going to charge for FaceTime over cellular, and that there’s nothing you can do about it. It maintained that it was following the net neutrality rules the FCC implemented in 2010.
The worst thing about this situation is that if FaceTime wasn’t built into iOS — in other words, if it was an app you had to download manually from the App Store — then AT&T would not be allowed to charge for it. It’s only because the feature comes pre-installed on the device that FCC rules say it’s okay.
But Free Press, which is a net neutrality supporter, isn’t convinced by that stance, and it has notified AT&T of its intent to file a complaint with the FCC. The organization’s policy director, Matt Wood, says:
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.
AT&T is clearly hoping to boost the adoption of its new shared data plans, but it doesn’t appear to be going about it the right way. It’s basically telling its customers that it will charge them extra for FaceTime simply because it can.
In comparison, Verizon has said that customers are free to use FaceTime over cellular as they please on their existing plans. Maybe that’ll make you think twice about where you choose to get your iPhone 5 from.