AT&T received a lot of negative attention in the press when it announced that it would restrict the use of FaceTime over cellular on Apple devices running iOS 6. Instead of letting anyone use the video chat feature no matter the device or data plan, AT&T decided to keep FaceTime limited to customers with new Mobile Share plans. This meant that traditional data plan customers, including those with grandfathered unlimited data, were out of luck.
Today AT&T announced a change to its FaceTime over cellular policy, and things are looking better for iPhone 5 and LTE iPad owners on tiered data plans.
AT&T’s official statement:
AT&T today announced it will enable FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge for iOS 6 customers with an LTE device on any tiered data plan. AT&T will also continue to offer FaceTime over Cellular to customers with any AT&T Mobile Share plan, as well as FaceTime over Wi-Fi, which has always been available for all customers. AT&T expects to roll out this functionality to customers over the next eight to ten weeks.
As part of its commitment to serving customers with disabilities, AT&T is also making FaceTime over Cellular available to deaf and hard of hearing customers who qualify for special text and data-only packages.
“We decided to take this cautious approach for important reasons,” said AT&T executive Jim Cicconi. “AT&T has by far more iPhones on our network than any other carrier. We’re proud of this fact and the confidence our customers have in us. But it also means that when Apple rolls out new services or changes, as it did in iOS 6, it can have a much greater, and more immediate, impact on AT&T’s network than is the case with carriers who have far fewer iPhone users.”
It looks like remaining unlimited data customers won’t be getting FaceTime over cellular on AT&T for quite awhile. The flip won’t even be switched for LTE devices for 8-10 weeks. You need to be on a LTE device if you want to use FaceTime with a tiered plan, and 3G devices like the iPhone 4S have to be on a new Mobile Share plan.
FaceTime can always be used for free over WiFi on any device.
Public interest groups like Free Press, Public Knowledge and New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute believe that AT&T’s blocking of FaceTime is illegal. These groups have threatened to file a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission “if AT&T fails to make FaceTime available to all of its customers in a timely manner.,” according to Public Knowledge.
“AT&T simply can’t justify blocking an app that competes with its voice and texting services unless customers purchase a more expensive monthly plan that includes an unlimited amount of those very same services,” said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. “AT&T’s course correction is a move in the right direction, but until the company makes FaceTime available to all of its customers it is still in violation of the FCC’s rules and the broader principles of Net Neutrality.”
The way AT&T has handled this situation is really stupid. Not only is it anti-competitive, but it’s the very definition of corporate greed. If you have to squeeze your customers out of every last dime and nickel, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your business model.
Source: AT&T Public Policy Blog