AT&T Hit with FaceTime Net Neutrality Complaint

Several Internet groups warned AT&T they plan to file a Net Neutrality complaint with the Federal Communications Commission over the cell service provider's policy blocking FaceTime video chat over wireless data connections. AT&T's current policy will require customers to sign up for a shared data plan or use FaceTime only over WiFi connections.

Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New American Foundation Open Technology Institute are all participating in the FCC complaint.

AT&T looking at FCC complaint over FaceTime restrictionsAT&T looking at FCC complaint over FaceTime restrictions

AT&T drew criticism when it announced that iOS 6's FaceTime over 3G feature was going to be limited to subscribers that agree to sign up for shared data plans. The carrier responded to concerns that it was violating Net Neutrality rules by saying pre-loaded apps don't fall under those FCC requirements.

"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," said AT&T Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer Bob Quinn.

Free Press, however, disagrees. Free Press policy director Matt Wood stated,

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.

New America Foundation policy counsel Sarah Morris agreed stating, "AT&T's decision to block mobile FaceTime on many data plans is a direct contradiction of the Commission's Open Internet rules for mobile providers."

The organizations are asking the FCC to act quickly to block AT&T from limiting how iPhone and iPad users access FaceTime over wireless data connections.