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AT&T Mobility’s FaceTime plans stir debate, FCC complaint

AT&T Mobility’s plans to limit use of Apple’s FaceTime video chat service to either Wi-Fi connections or to cellular connections running through its Mobile Share plans has garnered official ire from a handful of public interest groups.

Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute have told the carrier they plan to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission claiming AT&T Mobility’s actions violate open Internet rules.

“AT&T’s decision to block FaceTime unless a customer pays for voice and text minutes she doesn’t need is a clear violation of the FCC’s Open Internet rules,” said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. “It’s particularly outrageous that AT&T is requiring this for iPad users, given that this device isn’t even capable of making voice calls. AT&T’s actions are incredibly harmful to all of its customers, including the deaf, immigrant families and others with relatives overseas, who depend on mobile video apps to communicate with friends and family.”

The FCC voted in late 2010 to preserve open Internet rules for mobile broadband services that had been in place following passage of the 1996 Telecom Act.

AT&T Mobility announced last month that with the roll out of Apple’s iOS 6, the carrier would limit use of FaceTime to either Wi-Fi connections or for cellular connections running through the carrier’s Mobile share plans. The carrier did not make the same requirement for other video chat services, such as Skype or Tango. Apple recently announced that its iOS 6 operating system would be available on the iPhone 5.

Verizon Wireless came out recently noting that it would continue to allow FaceTime use across its mobile broadband network regardless of operating system or application. However, Verizon Wireless is required to allow open access to services running across its C-Block, 700 MHz spectrum assets currently supporting its LTE network due to terms of the licenses.

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