Consumer groups will be filing an official complaint against's AT&T's decision to force iPhone users to upgrade to an AT&T shared data plan
if they want to use Facetime video chat over cellular networks. Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute collectively say they'll be filing a complaint with the FCC, a statement from Public Knowledge
insisting AT&T's decision violates the FCC's network neutrality rules. An additional letter to AT&T
(pdf) puts it this way:
We respectfully request that AT&T reconsider its behavior and the impact that blocking FaceTime will have on its customers, particularly the deaf and hard of hearing,as well as all who use this application to communicate with family and friends over the Internet. Making mobile use of the application available only to those customers who pay for unlimited voice and text messages harms individuals and innovation alike.
We ask instead that AT&T make this core feature of the popular iPhone and iPad devices available to all of its customers, in compliance with the Open Internet rules that "preserve the Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate without permission."
Given the fact the FCC's rules are intentionally packed with loopholes
(having been written with more than a little closed-door industry input) it remains unclear if they'll actually be enforceable in this instance. It also remains unclear if the FCC much cares about such issues, having previously hinted that such pricing practices are simply "creative" marketplace experimentation. In September the FCC crowed that they'd yet to see a single neutrality complaint
, so this appears to be the first.
AT&T previously called the response to their Facetime blockade "kneejerk reactions
," insisting that they technically weren't violating network neutrality because Facetime came preloaded on devices. As noted the rules clearly have loopholes, and AT&T is at least pretending they see one that allows them to argue it's fine to discriminate and otherwise hinder apps -- provided they're already on the device at sale.