AT&T faces complaint for FaceTime over 3G

FaceTime is basically a video calling software application and related protocol developed by Apple Inc. for supported mobile devices running Apple’s propriety operating system, the iOS, in addition to Macintosh computers running Mac OS X 10.6.6 and higher. It works with the front facing camera on these devices, also known as FaceTime camera.

Previously, the FaceTime application was allowed to communicate on an iPhone using a wi-fi connection only, but with iOS 6, things have changed a bit. Users can now use FaceTime over 3G, meaning you can make video calls. Not so revolutionary since there have been phones in the past with this capability, nevertheless, the point is that you can initiate a FaceTime call over 3G.

Since using FaceTime over 3G would only use data traffic, the logical thing for a carrier to do is deduct the usage from user’s data transfer quota, but AT&T disagrees with that. AT&T has decided that users would require having a specific wireless data plan in order to make use of Apple’s FaceTime video chat over its 3G network.

In order to protest the carrier’s move, a trio public interest groups is planning to file a formal complaint protesting ATT’s decision on the grounds of Open Internet rule. The three public interest groups are namely Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute have said that they are going to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission stressing that AT&T has violated Net Neutrality with a policy which requires a separate data plan in order to use Apple’s FaceTime video chat service, which can technically run on the standard 3G data plan.

“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,” Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said in a press release. “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.”

We had previously posted about ATT’s report where in which they said that they would allow customers to access the service using its cellular network with its new Family Share plans. On the other hand, notable carriers such as Verizon and Sprint had just made it clear that they would allow customers to access FaceTime over 3G and count the data usage against the monthly allotment in subscriber’s plan.

Back in August, when consumer advocates had said that ATT was violating the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules, ATT had countered saying that the rules did not apply to applications that came along with the device pre-installed. AT&T’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs Bob Quinn had then argued that the rules covered whether phone owners could download applications that competed with what AT&T offered out of the box. Technically, they are right and there seems to be a loophole in the rules.

What are your thoughts on ATT’s move? Let us know using the comment form below.

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