‘Net neutrality’ watchdogs howl over AT&T’s FaceTime over Cellular policy

“When iOS’ FaceTime video chat feature debuted on iPhones, AT&T subscribers were limited to using it only on WiFi,” Richard Adhikari reports for MacNewsWorld. “Now, however, AT&T will let subscribers use it on the cellular network as well — if those subscribers sign up for a new, and possibly more expensive, Mobile Share data plan. Consumer watchdogs say that policy is a violation of FCC Net neutrality rules.”

“The carrier is drawing flak from advocacy groups for requiring users to sign up for one of the company’s new Mobile Share data plans if they want to use iOS’s FaceTime video chat app over AT&T’s wireless network rather than WiFi.,” Adhikari reports. “Public Knowledge and Free Press contend that this requirement is a breach of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules on Net neutrality.”

Adhikari reports, “However, AT&T iPhone users have always used FaceTime over WiFi, and AT&T isn’t forcing them to stop using WiFi and move over to its wireless network. Rather, it’s stating that those who want to use FaceTime over its network have to switch to one of the new service plans in order to use the feature on the cellular network as well. Consumers can retain their existing plans if they only wish to use FaceTime over WiFi.”

Read more in the full article here.

Bob Quinn, AT&T’s Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Office has responded to critics via open letter. Read more: AT&T Mobility blasts ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to ‘FaceTime Over Cellular’ plans

MacDailyNews Take: Beyond the question of the FCC’s authority to impose and/or adjudicate such rules, what do you think, is it illegal for AT&T Mobility to do what it intend on doing in regard to FaceTime Over Cellular?

As for so-called “Net Nutrality,” as we’ve written before: Fostering realistic, competitive ISP choice for consumers is the best way to maintain “Net Neutrality.” True supporters of the concept of “Net Neutrality,” rather than some bastardized version that’s only branded “Net Neutrality,” should focus their energies in that direction.

The supporters of net neutrality regulation believe that more rules are necessary. In their view, without greater regulation, service providers might parcel out bandwidth or services, creating a bifurcated world in which the wealthy enjoy first-class Internet access, while everyone else is left with slow connections and degraded content.

That scenario, however, is a false paradigm. Such an all-or-nothing world doesn’t exist today, nor will it exist in the future. Without additional regulation, service providers are likely to continue doing what they are doing. They will continue to offer a variety of broadband service plans at a variety of price points to suit every type of consumer.

Depending on their requirements and preferences, some consumers will choose to pay more for premium service. Others will decide that they don’t need such high service levels, so they will pay less. Inevitably, the market will adjust, just as it has in the past, to this varied population and its preference for a highly diverse mix of services, quality, bandwidth and price. This is the hallmark of a competitive market.

Robert Pepper, Cisco Systems’ senior managing director, global advanced technology policy; former FCC chief of policy development, March 14, 2007

Full article “Network Neutrality: Avoiding a Net Loss” – highly recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Edward W.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
AT&T Mobility blasts ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to ‘FaceTime Over Cellular’ plans – August 22, 2012
FaceTime over cellular from AT&T available at no additional cost, but only to Mobile Share subscribers – August 20, 2012
Sprint won’t charge extra for FaceTime over cellular – July 18, 2012
U.S. Senate rejects attempt to overturn FCC’s so-called ‘net neutrality’ rules – November 10, 2011
Free Press sues U.S. FCC over so-called ‘net neutrality’ rules – September 29, 2011
FCC takes steps toward implementing ‘Net Neutrality’ rules – July 1, 2011
Al Franken: Big corporations are ‘hoping to destroy’ the Internet – March 16, 2011
Speaker Boehner rips FCC bid to regulate Internet; likens ‘shocking’ national debt to Sputnik threat – February 28, 2011
House passes amendment to block funds for FCC ‘Net Neutrality’ order – February 17, 2011
Rasmussen: Just 21% of likely U.S. voters want FCC to regulate Internet – December 28, 2010
FCC cites Android ‘openness’ as reason for neutered ‘Net Neutrality’ – December 22, 2010
U.S. FCC approves so-called ‘net-neutrality’ regulations – December 21, 2010
Tim Lee on ‘network neutrality’: Libertarian computer geeks should forge a third way – December 16, 2010
Google and Verizon propose ‘Net Neutrality’ rules, but exempt wireless’ – August 9, 2010
Big win for Comcast as US court rules against FCC on authority to impose ‘Net Neutrality’ – April 6, 2010
Google and Verizon said to be close to deal that may jeopardize ‘net neutrality’ – August 05, 2010
Big win for Comcast as US court rules against FCC on authority to impose ‘Net Neutrality’ – April 06, 2010
Did the FCC’s National Broadband Plan kill ‘Net Neutrality?’ – March 26, 2010
Steve Jobs: Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ mantra is ‘bullshit’ – February 01, 2010
Will ‘Net Neutrality’ go wireless? Google and the telecommunications industry gird for battle – October 01, 2009
AT&T: Any new ‘net neutrality’ rules should apply to Google Voice, too – September 25, 2009
AT&T calls FCC neutrality plan a ‘Bait and Switch’ – September 22, 2009
Senate Republicans move to block FCC’s proposed ‘net neutrality’ rules – September 22, 2009
Opposing Net Neutrality – August 10, 2006
U.S. Senate committee rejects net neutrality proposal – June 29, 2006
House rejects H.R. 5252 Net neutrality amendment – June 09, 2006
Google posts call to action on ‘net neutrality’ – June 08, 2006
FCC Commissioner backs Net Neutrality – May 30, 2006


  1. I don’t know the specifics of the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules, but I can see how AT&T (or any other carrier) would be leery to allow FaceTime over cellular data when the potential users don’t have a large bucket of data allowed. Just think of how many teenagers would blow past their data allowance, incurring huge data overage bills, and then having to deal with their angry parents.

    At least with the Mobile Share plan if a teen went nuts on FaceTime, the parents will get notified when running out of data and can address the situation. It’s also a marketing tool AT&T wants to use, so only letting Mobile Share subscribers use FaceTime is a carrot to get users to switch.

    1. This is an effort by AT&T to eradicate the remaining “unlimited” data plans. AT&T and other cell providers have no problem at all with people racking up enormous bills from international travel, roaming, or Facetime.

      Unless the cell providers collude to control the market outside of free and open competition, I believe that this is an instance in which the FCC should let consumers influence AT&T’s business practices. If enough people make their displeasure known to AT&T, then their policies may change. If enough people switch from AT&T to other providers, then their policies *will* change.

      If the cell providers conclude to screw the consumer, then the government should step in with a vengeance.

        1. The carriers have done both: colluded to screw customers and concluded they can get away with it, since they answer to no regulatory body. The government is a joke because we make it so, and allow ourselves to be deluded by the arguments of people like Robert Pepper. The argument he makes is an exact explanation of the situation that those with more money get good service and those with less money get poorer service, which he claims does not exist. It’s like making the entire interstate highway system a toll road, instead of (mostly) free (and equal) access to all citizens.

    2. The FCC policy has only four conditions;

      Open devices
      Open apps
      Open services
      Open networks

      Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the issues will see two things impacting the ‘net.

      1. Google’s YouTube delivers 75 petabytes of data every 90-days. More than the world’s radio, cable, and broadcast channels deliver in a year. Google doesn’t pay a dime to provide that service and yet it consumes massive chunks of bandwidth each and every hour. The internet is not ready for 3.0 and exabytes.

      2. If the government is to become the paternal overseer of the internet, they will fuck it up.

  2. It wouldn’t be much fun to be a carrier.

    Everybody wants your service to be fast and flawless, but wants to pay almost nothing for it. If you have a service outage of any significance, you get trashed in the press and blogosphere for being incompetent. If you incur billions of dollars in expenses to upgrade your infrastructure to the latest technology, you are supposed to magically do it without passing the cost along to your subscribers. To do so would be evil and greedy.

    No thanks. I don’t envy them at all.

    1. Give me a break, Wyseguy! The cell providers have been milking profits from consumers for a long time. Examples?
      Buying buckets of use-or-lose minutes with outrageous over-the-limit fees.
      Charging outrageous fees for tiny data packets called “text messages”
      Tacking on charges from third parties from which the cell provider takes a hefty cut
      Charging $2 or more for a snippet of a song for a ringtone
      And so on…

      I don’t mind paying a reasonable fee for cell phone service. But I don’t appreciate the way in which the providers have manipulated the system to maximize profits at our expense. As a result, few people are inclined to extend much sympathy for them.

  3. I have no problem with providers charging more for higher usage levels of their services.
    I do have issues with the singling out of specific applications in their offering/pricing. They must remain the “pipes” that they are, and align their pricing on quantities not on content.
    If their network has limited availability of upstream bandwidth that’s what they need to charge for (straightforward offer and demand).
    Pricing a specific app separately can actually be detrimental to that app’s vendor because it fosters a black market of hacks that circumvent the limitation to provide the same feature ( e.g. Skype or a variant thereof in this case)

  4. I am waiting for the government to tell me what type and brand of underwear to purchase! Are you all getting tired of the government wanting to control every aspect of our lives? Freedom….

    1. Me too. I cannot wait until November when we change to a more business freindly government. One that will free up corporations and only control little thnigs like who we can marry, a woman’s right to choose, who can write off $77k deduction for show ponies. And talk about underwear, I hope we all get that magic underware that our new president wears. That is what I cannot wait for. Damn controlling government.

  5. Unfortunately Robert Pepper is wrong. The carriers want to move to a model where there is a data usage fee for each app that you use. The article with the PowerPoint slides attended by all the mobile carrier bigwigs was posted here on MDN about 2-3 years ago.

  6. Possibly more expensive? No, it is definately more expensive. Just do the damn math, AT&T shared data plan is a big fat FAIL. just another greedy money grab. Bastardos.

  7. So if I am the only phone on the plan and want to use FaceTime to video chat with my family in another state and on Verizon, and want to chat occasionally when I do not have access to WiFi, do I need to have the Mobile Share Plan? If I do, that makes no sense.

  8. I have an unlimited data plan on both my and my wife’s iPhone from AT&T and I’ll fight them anyway that I can, if they try to take it away from me! I should have the right to tether and use FaceTime on that plan, just as any other subscriber. Being a long term subscriber, I think I’m owed this consideration. I’m saying this as a stockholder of over 1000 shares also. Customer service needs to be more important than profits!

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