AT&T blocks FaceTime: Follow the money

In restricting use of Apple FaceTime, AT&T (NYSE:T) is being accused of violating network neutrality regulations. Not so, says AT&T, outlining a tortuous legal argument why it's in the clear. It just wants more money, to ensure it can offer enough bandwidth.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers gasp in angered awe at AT&T's audacity. [That's enough awful alliteration -Ed.]

AT&T logo

By Richi Jennings: Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: The Pirate Bay's Peter Sunde: Freedom king, or evil monster?...

Yoni Heisler has good news... and bad:

With iOS 6...FaceTime will for the first time be available over 3G. ... [But] AT&T announced...that FaceTime over cellular will only be available to customers [on] a new Mobile Share plan.


[It] drew a lot of ire from folks claiming that the decision ran afoul of net neutrality laws. ... But when you get down to the nitty gritty, it's apparent...that AT&T's decision is [about] their network being able to handle all that data.  MORE

Tony Bradley calls it "simple extortion" and a "PR nightmare":

AT&T is using FaceTime as a bargaining chip to force customers [onto] new data plans.


From AT&T’s perspective, the limitations...are really an altruistic move to help customers out. ... [But] extort[ing] customers to switch to more expensive plans is...indefensible.


AT&T...deserves the pubic relations nightmare it created.  MORE

So is this a violation of net-neutrality regulations? AT&T's Bob Quinn says not:

Those arguments are wrong. ... [We] are prohibited...from blocking applications that compete with [our] voice or video telephony services.


The FCC [does] not regulate...applications that are preloaded...they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with  MORE

Nick Heer translates Quinn's quotes: [Ahem -Ed.]

You won’t believe how tightly we are threading...through some loopholes we found. ... The FCC prohibits blocking applications, not [their] use... Tell me that ain’t clever.


We have a ****** network. ...every other country [allows] FaceTime over 3G for no extra cost [and] mobile hotspot features [but] we can’t do that unless you want...service in Midtown Manhattan to be even worse than it already is.  MORE

Meanwhile, Mike Masnick, mesmerized, mutters: [What did I tell you? -Ed.]'s quite amazing to watch AT&T try to tap dance around [the rules] while clearly violating both the spirit and the letter.


AT&T's defense is two-fold: [1]...that there is a that it does not apply to preloaded apps. [2]...that as long as some other competing apps are available, they can restrict the apps they want to.


[This is] a symptom of...a lack of serious competition.  MORE

And Stacey Higginbotham calls it "bait and switch":

...absent real transparency [we] have no way of knowing if AT&T is using [this] push people off its unlimited and tiered plans. [But] that is likely what AT&T is actually doing.


As revenue from voice and texting decrease, these shared plans lock in some of the the form of fixed fees for devices. ...the discussion about preloading is a red herring.


So consumers shouldn’t just get upset over...FaceTime but about the greater games Ma Bell is playing.  MORE
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