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 our...services.  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.]

...it'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 loophole...in 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]...to 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 revenue...in 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
FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: Five IT certifications that won’t break you
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies