AT&T’s FaceTime limits could violate FCC rules

By , Aug 21, 2012

AT&T sent shockwaves through the tech community last week when it announced its future plans for iOS 6’s new FaceTime over Cellular feature. The good news is that it won’t be charging separately for the service, but the bad news is only customers on its new Mobile Share data plans will be able to use it.

As you can imagine, this has folks upset — particularly AT&T customers who are still on unlimited, or other legacy, data plans. Why should they have to switch to a [likely] more expensive data plan to use the feature? Well, according to Public Knowledge’s senior lawyer John Bergmayer, they shouldn’t have to… 

The New York Times reports:

“Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that focuses on Internet law, says that by prohibiting its other customers from using the video-calling feature on the network, AT&T is violating net-neutrality rules by blocking a service that potentially competes with its own.

John Bergmayer, senior staff lawyer at Public Knowledge, said AT&T was violating the F.C.C.’s Open Internet Rules, which say that mobile providers shall not “block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.”

AT&T, of course, is maintaining that it has done nothing wrong. Here’s a statement from Mark Siegel, a spokesman for the carrier:

“FaceTime is available to all of our customers today over Wi-Fi, and now we’re expanding its availability even further as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans.”

The F.C.C. (Federal Communications Commission) has thus far not commented on the situation, but don’t count it out. The agency has been known to get involved with carrier affairs — most recently, telling Verizon it could no longer block third-party tethering applications and fining it $1.25 million.

It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds, both from a legal and customer turnover standpoint. Apple is launching a new smartphone next month, and AT&T is already expected to lose a number of customers in favor of Verizon’s much larger LTE network. And this can’t possibly be helping its cause.

What do you think, should the F.C.C. get involved here?

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  • http://twitter.com/RickT78 Richard Thompson

    Yes. By all means. I have 2 unlimited plans. With the current data usage I incur each month (even with wifi) I would definetly go over my only affordable data cap. There by actually making shared data MORE expensive.
    I don’t need unlimited minutes and I already have unlimited texting. AT&T can take their shared plans and “shove’em where the sun don’t shine!”

    • Kayneeezy

      i.e. Their Hairy Assholes.. Fuckers!

  • selcukcura

    “Apple is launching a new smartphone next month” – You dont know that yet. I find it so annoying when you write articles about something like its a fact. Even if its coming soon, its still a rumour.

    • 1337lolzorz

      It’s common sense that they are releasing the new iPhone soon since its almost been a year since the 4S release. What are you confused about…

      • selcukcura

        Confused? Im not saying they wont release it soon, im saying its not confirmed. Its just misinformation, you cant take rumours for hard evidence.

  • http://twitter.com/RickT78 Richard Thompson

    Also…
    Thank god for the My3G jailbreak app and third party apps like tango and Skype.

    • Kayneeezy

      Yeah but with Facetime Its different. It just works..

      • http://www.facebook.com/derfaust.mobile Der Faust

        well……..most of the time :)…..but never when you really need it to work……..yay fring!

  • Kok Hean

    Apple MIGHT BE launching a new smartphone next month. It’s not confirmed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/zacksloane Zachary Sloane

      I’ll bet you they at minimum announce a new smartphone next month. I’ll give you 10:1 odds. I’ll give you 3:1 odds that they launch it in September.

  • http://twitter.com/juanr1vargas Juan R Vargas

    AT&T should get a very hefty fine for the abuse of its customers

    • soundmanbrad

      Who ends up paying for their fines? Best thing to do is to leave AT&T if you don’t like them.

  • http://twitter.com/locomambo locomambo

    all this big companies just change rules whenever they feel like and we the consumer have to bend over and take it in the ass…HELL YEAH FCC do what you have to do to protect the little thing we have..!!

  • http://twitter.com/f96lrs lonnie schwanigr

    Yes take a vote

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryanjames.christensen Ryan James Christensen

    They will learn when everyone starts leaving AT&T because of this. No one is going to use a shared data plan anyway. They are super expensive and only worth it if you actually have 10 phones on a plan (but who does?). The FCC should get involved because AT&T is giving the feature to their customers but only some of them.

  • http://twitter.com/Ghost7wee7er Ghost Tweeter

    We have the same problem with service providers here in the uk face time costs you tethering is not allowed but nothing gets done here. So I say go FCC then something might get done over here

    • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

      What are you on about.. Tethering is allowed you get it in your contract .my wife even gets it on the basic Orange plan and that’s only got 100mb of data on it… As for FaceTime I’ve just found out that Orange will let you have it from your data with no extra cost.. So I bet the other carriers will do the same ..

      • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

        Facetime…..
        Vodaphone have no news on it yet..
        Just waiting for 3 and TMobile to get back to me

      • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

        O2 still don’t know

      • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

        3 have no plans for charging for FaceTime

  • Bob Jonson

    I sooo hope that it violates F.C.C. rules cause AT&T is just annoying!

  • http://twitter.com/THFL5 Thomas Flores

    What I don’t understand is how AT&T can say they offer FaceTime over wifi when clearly when on wifi their is no cellular data being transferred. It’s an iPhone feature not at AT&T feature. Cause if that’s the case then everyone that is on FaceTime on an iPad or iPod touch should thank AT&T for allowing them to use their service

    • TheAntman217

      You clearly misunderstood what they said. “FaceTime is AVAILABLE to all of our customers over Wi-Fi….” Available ≠ Offer

      • Robert Goldberg

        I think that’s exactly what they tried to accomplish. Even though they did not actually say that FaceTime over Wi-Fi is something AT&T directly provides, the way they phrased their statement makes you think that it is their great deal of a service that let’s you have it.

  • http://twitter.com/thundiyils Jacob S

    I am so glad that I ditched AT&T after 7 years. Suckers…..

    There is another side of this restriction: Unless otherwise you are on the grandfathered unlimited data plan from at&t facetime over cellular will hurt your pocket badly. I have been using facetime over cellular on StraighTalk for few weeks now. It will suck nearly 850mb of data in less than an hour. So if you are on a 2gb/3gb data plan it could be a disaster if you face time few hours in a month. For 200/300mb plan users, don’t even trying facetime over cellular, if at&t ever let it happen :)

    • chjode

      I’m thinking of moving to StraightTalk for the new iPhone and I think I can manage the 2gb soft data cap (seeing as how AT&T throttles my “unlimited” data plan at 3gb), but that aside, how has StraightTalk been for your iPhone?

      • iNews10

        I have been using ST for nearly 2 months and I found the service is excellent and at part with AT&T native service. During the first month I was on a trip within 3 states and I took my AT&T postpaid number and ST number (both using iPhones) side to side and found signal and data works same on both services. Having said that, if you planning to switch to ST with the upcoming new iPhone, it could be a wait and watch game. It is been rumored that the new iPhone might be using nano SIM and need to see if ST comes up with nano SIM. Right now I am using an unlocked iPhone 4S (no need to use unlocked phone with ST) and my facetime over cellular working without any issues. Going to test to enable MMS with a t-mob sim card soon. I have heard that it will work on iPhone 4S. Sorry I had a problem connecting to my regular disqus account.

      • chjode

        Thanks for the info. I hadn’t thought about the new nano-SIM possibly not being supported on StraightTalk (at least not initially). I’ll cross my fingers and hope that someone on HowardForums or somewhere gets it sorted out.

  • Ali Shami

    Hi

    So it’s different here in Dubai

    The iphones come without facetime but you can restore it through middlewhat tweak or get an iphone from the market not from the local phone providers

    Tango viber skype blocked over 3g

    But skype still works on wifi

    About the personal hotspot It works well here!

    Even my 3g connection reaches 14Mb download

    But the problem is everything is blocked!

    Btw it costs me nearly 15$ to get 10GB plan !