Few days back, AT&T announced that it won’t be charging for FaceTime over cellular feature in iOS 6, but will require customers to be on one of its new Mobile Share data plans to be able to use the feature.
Digital advocacy group Public Knowledge believes that AT&T is violating F.C.C rules of net neutrality with this new policy.
A senior lawyer at the advocacy group told New York Times that AT&T was violating F.C.C.’s Open Internet Rules, which states that service providers should not “block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.”
“There is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime and another not,” Mr. Bergmayer said in a statement.
AT&T insists that it has done nothing wrong as it claims that FaceTime is still available over Wi-Fi. Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman issued the following statement defending the company’s new policy:
FaceTime is available to all of our customers today over Wi-Fi, and we’re now expanding its availability even further as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans.
But that doesn’t explain why FaceTime over cellular networks is available to users on the new Mobile Share data plans, but not to users who are on the grandfathered unlimited data plans and the tiered data plans that were launched in 2010. It also seems odd that they would introduce this policy for FaceTime, when users can use VoIP based apps like Skype to make video calls over cellular network since 2010.
Sprint has said that it has no plans to charge their iPhone customers additional fees for using FaceTime over their network as it considers it part of customer’s existing data package. Verizon has yet to say if it will have restrictions on the feature.
F.C.C had no comment on the matter. It’s a pity that carriers like AT&T have been allowed to take customers for a ride and charge for features like tethering and FaceTime over cellular (in iOS 6), which are offered for free in most countries.
It will be interesting to see if Public Knowledge will be able to change that in the near future.
Let us know your thoughts on the issue in the comments below.