AT&T's Detroit headquarters. (Paul Sancya/Associated…)
AT&T will now offer any iPhone 5 customer with a tiered data plan the ability to make cellular Facetime calls once the functionality rolls out in the next eight to 10 weeks.
Facetime is Apple's video chat service and can be used on many Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
Previously, the company offered the service only to iPhone users who were on its Mobile Share plan.
But despite the revised policy, many customers will still be left out. Those using an older version of the iPhone and those not on AT&T's Mobile Share plan as well as users on grandfathered unlimited data plans are still being excluded.
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By comparison, AT&T's two iPhone rivals, Verizon and Sprint, do not limit the availability of cellular Facetime calls.
Free Press, Public Knowledge and New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, groups that have been fighting AT&T on the matter, said the move is a step in the right direction. But they also said AT&T needs to make the service available to all of its customers.
"AT&T simply can’t justify blocking an app that competes with its voice and texting services unless customers purchase a more expensive monthly plan that includes an unlimited amount of those very same services," said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood in a statement.
The groups said AT&T's exclusion of customers violates the Federal Communications Commission's rules as well as Net Neutrality principles. The groups said they will file a complaint with the FCC unless AT&T switches its policies to include all customers in a timely manner.
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