AT&T offers FaceTime defense

AT&T’s Senior VP for Regulatory Affairs Bob Quinn took to the company’s blog yesterday to offer a defense of the company’s decision to block the use of Apple’s FaceTime app unless users are on a shared data plan. That has led to several charges of violating the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

From the Washington Post:

“The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones,” Bob Quinn wrote. “Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephone services.”

A lot of people suspect that the real reason AT&T is being difficult about this is that FaceTime competes with regular phone calls, which is how AT&T makes some money.

Wired says, regarding Quinn’s defense, baloney:

But the rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission to prevent carriers from blocking access to applications and websites over mobile connections are crystal clear: Mobile broadband providers cannot “block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.”
Nowhere in the rules will you find a mention of the term “preloaded.” And nor will you find it in the rest of the FCC’s nearly 200-page official order that accompanied and explained the agency’s rationale for adopting these rules. This is simply a distinction that AT&T is inventing, hoping that the FCC lets it poke another loophole in the already weak wireless Net Neutrality protections.

Now we have to see how much the FCC and AT&T’s customers care about pursuing this.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.
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I actually watched someone initiate a Facetime call Tuesday night, iPhone to iPhone. It had to be initiated from a conventional phone call. So ... I wonder if the Facetime data connection was simply terminating the voice call and then using data services (which AT&T also makes money from), or was using available WiFi (which both phones may have been connected to).

AT&T probably has a way to make money off Facetime connections, they just haven't gotten off their fat AS&Ses and engineered it. Yet. Almost certainly it would require some firmware updatin' from Apple.

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