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AT&T says charging for FaceTime doesn't violate net neutrality

August 22, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • An AT&T sign at a store in New York.
An AT&T sign at a store in New York. (CX Matiash / Associated…)

Facing a backlash for its decision to charge some users for cellular FaceTime calls, AT&T defended its decision Wednesday, saying the move is not in violation of net neutrality rules.

Last week, AT&T announced that only users on its new Mobile Share plan will be able to make free cellular FaceTime calls, a feature that will debut on Apple's iOS 6 operating system, which is expected to launch with the next iPhone in September.

That decision effectively leaves out all of AT&T's customers as the network is yet to debut the Mobile Share plan, although that is expected to happen late this month.

But immediately, AT&T was criticized for its decision, and it doesn't help the carrier that one of its competitors, Sprint, has said it won't charge its customers for their cellular FaceTime calls.

AT&T took to a blog Wednesday to defend its decision, saying arguments that the Texas-based carrier is violating net neutrality rules are wrong.

AT&T argued that the company would only violate net neutrality if it wasn't transparent about its network management practices and if it blocked other applications that competed with its own services. But because AT&T does not block other video chat apps, the company says it's in the clear.

"We are broadening our customers' ability to use the preloaded version of FaceTime but limiting it in this manner to our newly developed AT&T Mobile Share data plans out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience," the company said in the blog.

But rather than lessen the criticism, AT&T fueled the fire.

Freepress.net, which has been fighting the FaceTime decision since its announcement, responded to AT&T with a blog of its own.

"From electricity to earmuffs, once you buy a product or service from a company, it shouldn't be any of their business how you choose to use it," the organization said in its blog

Freepress.net, which has started a petition, argues that AT&T does violate net neutrality rules by forcing users to pay for plans that include features they may not want, such as minutes or messages, in order to get a feature that they do.

"Today AT&T blocks FaceTime unless you pay their toll, but tomorrow it will be Skype, Google Voice or iMessage," the organization said.

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