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AT&T Tries to Justify Blocking FaceTime from Non-Premium Subscribers

Today, AT&T published its response to arguments by Public Knowledge, Free Press, and others that it is violating the FCC’s Open Internet rules by blocking FaceTime, an iPhone video chat service, for many of its customers. AT&T’s response is linked here.

PK’s earlier press release on this matter is linked.

The following statement may be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:

“The FCC’s Open Internet rules do not distinguish between pre-loaded and downloaded apps. They prevent carriers from blocking certain kinds of apps–period. AT&T is blocking FaceTime for all of its iPhone customers who do not subscribe to its premium ‘Mobile Shared’ plans, and this runs afoul of the rules.

“FaceTime only works over cellular connections in iOS 6 and later. We don’t know why Apple chose not to enable cellular FaceTime earlier. But now that every other US iPhone carrier besides AT&T will be offering cellular FaceTime on a nondiscriminatory basis, it is reasonable to assume that AT&T’s demands were holding it back for everyone. No carrier should be able to dictate to Apple or any other handset manufacturer what features they may include on their phones.

“AT&T has no say over what features customers may use over WiFi, unlicensed spectrum that is free for the public to use without the permission any carrier. Thus it is disingenuous of AT&T to point to the availability of FaceTime over WiFi as some sort of benefit it provides its customers. That said, perhaps the best way to counter AT&T’s anti-consumer behavior with regard to FaceTime is increase the availability of unlicensed spectrum, to further increase the ability of consumers to bypass gatekeepers like AT&T.

“Many people use apps like FaceTime, Skype, and ooVoo instead of making voice calls. In many respects these apps are more convenient than traditional calling. And by using these apps, consumers can save money on international calling charges, conference call services, and in other ways. There’s no doubt that these apps are a competitive threat to AT&T’s voice service. But as the FCC made clear in its Open Internet rules, mobile providers must compete with these new services fair and square, and not by engaging in discriminatory behavior.”

Source: Equities

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