AT&T Promises They'll Stop Blocking Video Apps by End of 2013
By Which Most Unlimited Users Will Be on Metered Plans
After taking heat from consumer groups last year for blocking Facetime video chat, AT&T made waves last week by deciding to block the new cross-platform and device video chat functionality in Google Hangouts
from running over their speedy new LTE network. As they did during the Facetime debacle, AT&T made the obscure claim that they can block any application that comes pre-loaded on a device, even if technically Hangouts doesn't come pre-loaded (AT&T's just choosing language carefully to dodge wiggle through net neutrality rule loopholes). They also tried to blame developers and handset makers for their own decision to block the apps.
Now AT&T has issued a second, follow up statement that doesn't make a whole lot more sense than the first one did, and again tries to place the blame at the feet of OS and device makers. AT&T does, however, promise that they'll stop blocking video chat apps from running over their network by the end of this year:
For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we currently give all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share or Tiered plans. Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry have chosen to enable this for their pre-loaded video chat apps. And by mid-June, we’ll have enabled those apps over cellular for our unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices from those three manufacturers.
Throughout the second half of this year, we plan to enable pre-loaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device; that work is expected to be complete by year end.
Today, all of our customers can use any mobile video chat app that they download from the Internet, such as Skype.
Note the underlined bit, because this is what it's all about. With Facetime, AT&T first blocked it for all users, then only blocked it for users who switched to from grandfathered unlimited data accounts to their metered plans. You can assume something similar will happen here. In other words this isn't really technical (AT&T's LTE network is currently ranked the fastest available in the States), it's a way to bully unlimited users on to costlier plans. It's also a network neutrality violation, regardless of AT&T's choice of language.