Yesterday, the Free Press and Public Knowledge spoke out against AT&T decision to only allow its Mobile Share subscribers to use FaceTime over 3G. Both groups accused the wireless carrier of violating the Federal Communication Commission's open Internet and net neutrality rules. As we said at the time, it's a hard argument to win because AT&T still offers its existing data plans and is using FaceTime over 3G merely as an incentive to move customers to its new bucket data Mobile Share offering. The wireless carrier responded to the accusations on Wednesday.
"Some groups have rushed to judgment and claimed that AT&T's plans will violate the FCC's net neutrality rules," AT&T's senior vice president, Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer BoB Quinn said on the company's public policy blog. "Those arguments are wrong." Here's how he laid it out:
"Providers of mobile broadband Internet access service are subject to two net neutrality requirements: (1) a transparency requirement pursuant to which they must disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of their broadband Internet access services; and (2) a no-blocking requirement under which they are prohibited, subject to reasonable network management, from blocking applications that compete with the provider's voice or video telephony services," Quinn said. Since AT&T doesn't offer a FaceTime competitor of its own, it believes the move is fair game. He also said there isn't an issue with transparency, since consumers know which plans the service is available on and which plans it isn't.
Quinn also added that AT&T isn't blocking any applications. So consumers can search the respective chat stores and download any video chat app that they please. He didn't name any, but I will. Tango is one, Skype is another and Google+ is yet another. So why is FaceTime over 3G limited to Mobile Share?
"We are broadening our customers' ability to use the preloaded version of FaceTime but limiting it in this manner to our newly developed AT&T Mobile Share data plans out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience," Quinn explained.