AT&T’s initial decision to charge for FaceTime video calls made over its cellular network and the subsequently tweaked rules mandating that FaceTime over cellular users sign up for AT&T’s Mobile Share plans both provoked a public outrage which almost snowballed into a PR catastrophe.

Deciding someone should take the nation’s biggest carrier to task for taking advantage of its unsuspecting customers, advocacy group Public Knowledge (PG) figured that AT&T’s policy violates net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The group is mulling an investigation into AT&T’s practices as Public Knowledge, Free Press and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute all plan to file a complaint with the FCC for AT&T’s violation of network neutrality rules…

GigaOM reminds us how AT&T justified its controversial decision:

AT&T justified this move in two ways: first it said by being open and transparent about the move it was following the rules that the FCC had implemented with regard to network neutrality on wireless networks.

Two, it made a complicated argument around preloaded apps that basically boiled down to, “you can use anything you want on AT&T’s handsets over Wi-Fi, thus we aren’t blocking anything.”

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood disagrees wholeheartedly:

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.

Can you say ‘class action lawsuit’?

AT&T’s official stance on the matter, from last month’s official blog post:

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.

Neither Sprint nor Verizon would charge for FaceTime 3G calls, it has been confirmed previously.

While we’re at it, can someone look into how and why telcos are allowed to change terms of service at their own whim. It’s another unfair practice that has, for example, allowed Verizon to force higher-priced Share Everything plans upon new customers.

Soviet ministries, indeed!

Aren’t you just sick of them?

I know who is!

  • Fuck AT&T, I switched to verizon

    • My brother just made the switch from vz to AT&T with me

  • Easily solved with a jailbreak.
    Keeping my unlimited plan, screw att and shared data plans.

    • what tweak would that be?

      • I believe it’s called 3G Unrestrictor

    • Donovan Davis

      Same here.

  • Fuck AT&T, I switched to StraightTalk still using their network and paying way less, Enjoying the network as before!

  • I blame apple for even putting the feature to block Facetime over Cellular in iOS. It should have came out with iOS 6, and if ATT didn’t want to ride with it they should have lost the ability to carry iPhone 5.. that would have fixed it right there. They’re not going to lose that market share.

  • Andy

    AT&T should have multiple class action lawsuits against them. If Comcast or any other cable internet provider tried to pull the stuff that AT&T does, they’d be out of business so fast their heads would spin.

  • ic0dex

    The only reason I’m sticking to ATT is because you can use the web and talk at the same time. That feature is really helpful for me and my work. Other than that I would have been on Verizon a yer ago.

  • FrankensteinBlack

    So its free for Sprint/Verizon users. Facetime over slow EVDO is STUPID! iPhones already have a still photo app. Sayin…

    PS and this from a user that doesn’t have a shared data plan. I JB so been doing this as far back as a iPhone 3GS. Yea, you heard it right (Facetime over 3G on an iPhone 3GS!! ;^)…

  • Cam

    I have been doing this on a JB device as well and it’s really not worth it. I think that the LTE markets would be fine but HSPA+ can’t handle that.

  • yep i agree att not fair to its loyal customers !!! found the patition to sign to stop att from restricting facetime on 3g for all its customers