AT&T recently announced that it will allow FaceTime over 3G calls, provided that you're a customer who has signed up for one of its new Mobile Share plans. This has more than just a few people up in arms, who think that it's unfair AT&T has any say in how or what you use your data for. AT&T, for its part, is clearly trying to move customers over to its new shared plans and is using this as an incentive.
The Free Press doesn't think AT&T's move is fair. In fact, the group says that AT&T is violating the FCC's Net Neutrality rules. What is net neutrality? At its core, it means that cable companies can't tell you what you can and can't do with your data. If you're a Time Warner customer and want to stream Netflix, Time Warner can't stop you from doing so. Free Press wants the same rules to apply to wireless networks and for us to stand up for those rights. Here's a statement the group recently posted on its website:
Dear FCC Commissioners,
AT&T just announced it's blocking the FaceTime video calling app on its customers' iPhones unless they subscribe to a more expensive text-and-voice plan.
This is a clear violation of Net Neutrality and of your own Open Internet rules. AT&T knows that if it can get the FCC to condone this kind of Net Neutrality violation, then they can get away with just about anything.
I urge you to put a stop to AT&T's anti-consumer and anti-Net Neutrality actions.
The groups's Web site is peppered with other tidbits, too. "If AT&T actually had to compete for customers, it would never treat them this way," the site says. "If the agency lets AT&T get away with blocking applications on its network, what's next?" All very good points, but I fear the answer could be that AT&T simply does away with its existing plans, like Verizon did, and forces new customers over to Mobile Share. In that case, customers will all have access to FaceTime over 3G and AT&T avoids the complaints.
Free Press isn't alone. Public Knowledge's senior staff attorney, John Bergmayer, issued a similar statement today:
By blocking FaceTime for many of its customers, AT&T is violating the FCC's Open Internet rules. These rules state that mobile providers shall not 'block applications that compete with the provider's voice or video telephony services.' Although carriers are permitted to engage in 'reasonable network management,' there is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime, and another not.
'Over-the-top' communications services like FaceTime are a threat to carriers' revenue, but they should respond by competing with these services and not by engaging in discriminatory behavior.
There could be a technical reason, though. Right now, most of AT&T's customers are signed on to its older data plans, so there aren't a whole bunch on its new Mobile Share plans. Those new plans are likely priced to include the strain that FaceTime over 3G will put on its network.