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AT&T Facing Net Neutrality Complaint Over FaceTime Restrictions 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-packets-can-only-be-of-a-certain-shape dept.
Today several public interest groups, including Public Knowledge, announced plans to file a net neutrality complaint with the FCC over AT&T's restriction of FaceTime on iPads and iPhones. Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said, "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. 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 groups have sent a letter (PDF) to AT&T asking them to reconsider their policy. The communications giant has previously responded to complaints by proclaiming their transparency and saying that charging more for being able to use FaceTime over mobile broadband is a "reasonable restriction."
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AT&T Facing Net Neutrality Complaint Over FaceTime Restrictions

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  • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:40PM (#41380663)

    AT&T is going to gouge the consumer for every cent they can. The irony, or course, is that Apple trumpets the fact that you can now make Facetime calls over a 3G/4G connection instead of WiFi. But the owner of the pipes (AT&T) is going to restrict how much of it you can use.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Has anyone heard of any progress on the 'open standard' that FaceTime was promised as?

      • by aitikin (909209)
        I'm wondering about this too. I haven't bought, nor do I plan on buying an iPhone, but it'd be nice to have it be open like they claimed it'd be...
      • by irving47 (73147)

        It was an open standard much like quicktime streaming server was... but for whatever rea$on, other companies did not embrace the format/protocol.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        I wonder about this too. That was mentioned way back in the Jobs era when he demoed FaceTime on stage. So far there haven't been any further mentions about them opening it up. It's just H.264 with a private API, so it would hardly be a stretch for others to implement it assuming Apple did open up said API.

      • I think that that one was filed under "Poor Steve was hitting the Vicodin a bit hard toward the end" and forgotten about. Last anybody checked, it was some combination of SIP and XMPP carrying lumps of pure proprietary like shit through a goose...

      • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @06:33AM (#41384857) Journal

        The calls are standard SIP w/ H.264 codecs (open?) but it uses a proprietary Apple-hosted HTTP-based lookup service to associate your phone number or email with your SIP URI. AFAIK they've released no details - that bit of info was gained from some reverse-engineering done on the Maemo forums.

    • Which makes me wonder if this in fact makes Apple look bad. My guess is that there will be some serious shouting going on behind the doors of meetings between AT&T and Apple over this. How can Apple promise a technology if another company goes and takes it away. That ain't right!

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:49PM (#41381349)
        Having worked for AT&T in the past I can guarantee you that their thoughts on this issue are "We don't give a shit and there's not a god damned thing apple can do about it."
        AT&T is too big, too entrenched, too immovable. Imagine a company, larger than GM, that you were forced to buy your car from. You could not get a car from anyone else without moving. And then, even if you did move, you more than likely would end up in another area where you had to buy a car made by them. Even if you did end up somewhere that had a different company you could buy a car from, that company would be either selling you an ATT car with a different sticker on it, or at least large parts of the car had been made by ATT.. oh yea, and ATT gets to decide what they charge that other company for those parts and they charge a lot more to them, than they do to themselves so it costs more to buy it from someone else to.

        That's what we're dealing with here. An entrenched, 100+ year old government sanctioned monopoly that has more clout in Washington you could possibly imagine. You may think "Well, these are cellphones! ATT doesn't own all the towers! I can get Sprint, or Verizon!" Oh yea? And how are those towers connected? How are the cellular regulations set? Who does congress listen to? You want to lay a new fiber trunk? Who owns the right of way? That's right, you need ATTs permission. ATT IS phone service in this country. Period. If apple wants to get away from ATT they are going to have to start communicating with gravitons or some shit... and even then its likely that ATT will complain to congress and get that form of communication rolled into a new telecom act giving them sole ownership of the relevant bosons or something.
        • I'd point to Level3 or (what used to be) Qwest or Global Grossing or other companies that own their own nation wide fiber network. Qwest bought a bunch of railroad right of ways and laid fiber all over the place. So no, all the back haul from towers isnt ATT.
          • by AK Marc (707885)
            Qwest is still US West (formerly AT&T). Again, everything goes back to AT&T.
            • Qwest bought USWest, which was a baby bell. Qwest was purchased by CenturyLink, which is not connected to ATT at all.... ya, it WAS all ATT back when the phone system was first rolled out, but it is completely inaccurate to say that now.
          • "Nation wide" is a marketing term. So they can run on their own fiber from New York to Los Angeles... Can they get to your business in downtown Chicago? No... AT&T OWNS Chicago. The whole thing. No matter what service you use to get your line in that city, the people you're getting it from are leasing at least part of it from AT&T. Probably most of it. And it's the same way everywhere.
            • So you are saying the Comcast cable line into my condo is owned by ATT? And the Fiber line into my office that is owned by CenturyLink is actually owned by ATT? Not arguing for the sake of it, but seems a giant over statement to say ATT owns the last mile everywhere.
        • From AT&T iPhone

          FaceTime over Cellular
          To enable FaceTime over cellular on this account, contact AT&T at 611 or visit http://www.att.com/mywireless [att.com]

          I you re-watch 2001 Space Odyssey, I think that pops up just shortly before he talks on the phone to his daughter on her birthday. No?

        • by dywolf (2673597)

          att doesnt own all the lines.
          att isnt a gov sanctioned monopoly
          this is a perfect example of the blind vitriol /. has come to represent.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So all you are asking for is unlimited bandwidth at no extra charge. Seems reasonable to me.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        No, not even close. (I am curious where the word 'unlimited' came from...)

        We pay for AT&T to deliver bits, we don't want AT&T to dictate what those bits can be used for and increase the price based on that.

        Clear enough, or are you actually dumb enough to think AT&T has your best interests in mind?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          (I am curious where the word 'unlimited' came from...)

          "Unlimited" clearly refers to the size of the user's face. The users just want to be able to use this service no matter how large their face is... that's an outrage.

      • by macs4all (973270)

        So all you are asking for is unlimited bandwidth at no extra charge. Seems reasonable to me.

        No, this is quite different.

        Here they are saying that, even though you may be far under your data plan limit, because the packets contain a certain type of data, the common carrier thinks they have a right to pose an arbitrary restriction upon passing them through their network.

    • by cob666 (656740)
      This is only because Apple built the mechanism to ALLOW the providers the ability to disable this feature. If Apple didn't have an option to disable this feature then the providers would have no way to charge extra for it. Of course people are going to say that if Apple did NOT provide this feature then providers wouldn't carry the new iPhone. That's total bullshit, no carrier that currently carries the iPhone is going to suddenly stop selling them, they're making way too much money off the hardware.

      If
      • by macs4all (973270)

        This is only because Apple built the mechanism to ALLOW the providers the ability to disable this feature. If Apple didn't have an option to disable this feature then the providers would have no way to charge extra for it. Of course people are going to say that if Apple did NOT provide this feature then providers wouldn't carry the new iPhone. That's total bullshit, no carrier that currently carries the iPhone is going to suddenly stop selling them, they're making way too much money off the hardware. If AT&T was so concerned about video over IP then it would be doing the exact same thing with Skype.

        Um, this is AT&T using deep packet inspection to deny certain content. There is no great conspiracy here between Apple and AT&T.

        Do you really think that Apple wants this frickin' "Asterisk" next to their description of Cellular FaceTime???

        • by zoloto (586738)
          Actually they don't. Otherwise the 3G enabler from the Cydia app store wouldn't work as advertised.
          • by macs4all (973270)

            Actually they don't. Otherwise the 3G enabler from the Cydia app store wouldn't work as advertised.

            What does the 3G enabler have to do with whether Apple "is in agreement or collusion" with AT&T on the FaceTime restriction?

            The 3G Enabler (and other, similar) hacks enable FaceTime over Cell for *every* Carrier (I think); because iOS 5 (and previous) doesn't allow FaceTime over Cell, for *any* Carrier. It has exactly nothing to do with ATT, per se. 3G Enabler (and similar) are about "unlocking" the feature, period, regardless of the Carrier . Since "tweaked" iOS devices are in the extreme minority,

        • by cob666 (656740)

          Um, this is AT&T using deep packet inspection to deny certain content. There is no great conspiracy here between Apple and AT&T

          Not for this feature they don't, there is an option to enable FaceTime over cellular, the provider config is able to set this flag.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by macs4all (973270)

      AT&T is going to gouge the consumer for every cent they can. The irony, or course, is that Apple trumpets the fact that you can now make Facetime calls over a 3G/4G connection instead of WiFi. But the owner of the pipes (AT&T) is going to restrict how much of it you can use.

      Um, I know you don't keep up on such things; but Apple has been on carriers other than AT&T for some time now, and they don't all [theverge.com] pose restrictions on FaceTime [gottabemobile.com]. So it is not in the least disingenuous for Apple to tout that new feature in iOS 6.

      Having said that, and as an AT&T customer myself, I think that what they are doing with both FaceTime AND Tethering should be frickin' illegal, even if it isn't. It's my data I'm paying for. AT&T SHOULD be a dumb pipe, nothing more, nothing less...

      • I'm well aware that there are other carriers but there is this small matter of a contract that I'd have to pay to get out of. Perhaps it wasn't clear in my post but I lay the blame for this not on Apple but on AT&T.

        • by macs4all (973270)

          I'm well aware that there are other carriers but there is this small matter of a contract that I'd have to pay to get out of. Perhaps it wasn't clear in my post but I lay the blame for this not on Apple but on AT&T.

          I am in a similar boat. But no, your post didn't make that too clear, sorry!

  • when/if the FCC rules against AT&T you can expect their paid-for polititcians to accuse the FCC of hurting 'net neutrality' how they have exceeded their mandate and that they should be dismantled in favor of something more corporation-friendly

    -I'm just sayin'
  • Net neutrality has nothing to do with the ability of AT&T's network to complete a call without dropping.
    • by macs4all (973270)

      Net neutrality has nothing to do with the ability of AT&T's network to complete a call without dropping.

      While I am nauseated by AT&T's decision to become the Bridge Troll for FaceTime, I want to take issue with your "call dropping" claim. I have an iPhone 4S (just as a point of reference), and at least in and around Indianapolis, IN, the only time I have problems with call-dropping at all is deep inside a certain Walmart I shop at, where there is zero to one "bar" showing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Specifically, the FCC’s "Net Neutrality" regulation represents an Obama campaign promise fulfilled on behalf of certain special interests, but ultimately a “solution” in search of a problem. The government has now interjected itself in how networks will be constructed and managed, picked winners and losers in the marketplace, and determined how consumers will receive access to tomorrow’s new applications and services. The Obama Administration’s overreaching has replaced innovators and investors with Washington bureaucrats.

    I think we've found our problem.

    • by cultiv8 (1660093)
      The FCC?
      • by speedlaw (878924)
        A wholly owned subsidiary. Did you miss the Comcast/Verizon split of the market ? he issue is that technology has finally merged data and "voice". This is the same problem your cable company has when you drop their offerings and subscribe to Netflix or Hulu. Much like the various **AA morons, you may expect the communications providers to fight a rear guard action to support the business model of 1980.
    • by PPH (736903)

      Obama campaign promise fulfilled on behalf of certain special interests,

      Those special interests being customers who don't want to be gouged for services they don't need nor want?

  • I would like cell phone companies to charge entirely by data. Since the average person isn't tech savvy, they could say 1 minutes = x kilobytes. I would also like the option to use lower quality sound for my voice calls. SMS messages would cost close to nothing, as they should be.

    • by alen (225700)

      The new plans are already unlimited minutes and SMS plus a data charge

  • I guess FaceTime isrevolutionary after all.

    Here I thought all this time that FaceTime is just another video chat technology, similar to ones that have been included with practically every webcam since the mid 90's, and similar to that which is available in practically every IM app (AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, etc.) and even facebook and Google Mail - except that it was only available for iOS devices and so if you wanted to video chat with a friend using FaceTime, they would have to go out and buy a compatible iDevice

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      FaceTime is different to those other methods though, since it just works (assuming you have a capable connection).

      It's trivial for most tech-savvy people to set up and use video chatting software - like you say, it's hardly new. What Apple did with FaceTime was make it easy for your grandma to be able to video call her grandkids without having to worry about installing a webcam, or making sure the microphone works and is selected as the right input, or have to download an app for her tablet/phone and make a

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:50PM (#41382693)

      I had no idea that these groups are unable to use the aforementioned alternatives. I didn't realize they are all forced to use iDevices on AT&T, and then forced to use FaceTime at that.

      Nope, but right now, they are forced to not use it.

      Seriously, though.. I'm all for filing the net neutrality complaint, but if these groups are so hard-hit, perhaps they should vote with their dollars and 1. not use AT&T where possible, 2. use an alternative video chat tech,

      AT&T didn't announce this before many people bought and tried it. The easy "solution" to this is for the government to step in and invalidate all AT&T consumer contracts. If you want to leave, do so. Any costs associated will be borne by AT&T alone. It's not a free market when your contract is not honored by the other side, and they make it more expensive to get out of when you are right than just pay it off. That's not capitalism anymore. Capitalism is about making a good product people want to buy, ATT is about lying about their shitty product, getting contracts, then announcing the hidden costs.

    • by fa2k (881632)

      FaceTime doesn't have to be revolutionary. I get it now, it's one of those slippery slope "First they came for the FaceTime users, and I didn't do anything, because I was not a FaceTime user" situations.

      That's why you don't have to react strongly: as you said, anyone can use the alternatives (or, applying Apple's IP standards to itself: the products it ripped off). It's time to disinterestedly and quietly file a net neutrality complaint to make sure this doesn't suddenly happen to all video traffic, or all

    • You're actually trying to say that because of an anticompetitive money grab from a telco, that users should just shrug and go use something more complicated and requires far more configuration and hassle. Now that's revolutionary.

      Here's a real revolutionary thought: AT&T gets the fuck out of the way, and lets a user do whatever the fuck they want with the bandwidth they pay for, whenever the fuck they want to do it.

      • users should just shrug and go use something more complicated and requires far more configuration and hassle. Now that's revolutionary.

        Really?
        Step 1. Log into gmail.
        Step 2. Click on other user.
        Step 3. Click video chat button.

        Step 1. Log into facebook.
        Step 2. Click on other user.
        Step 3. Click video chat button.

        Step 1. Log into Yahoo.
        Step 2. Click on other user.
        Step 3. Click video chat button.

        Step 1. Log into MSN.
        Step 2. Click on other user.
        Step 3. Click video chat button.

        If you happen to use Android, add the

  • So when is someone going to call the carriers out on all the other stupid crap they try to pull.

    Communications will be free in the not so distant future, ubiquitous... the carriers are trying to fight it any way they can.

    At some point the balance between bandwidth and availability will be such that you'll be paying for everything but the service. They'll charge you by the website visited, by the tweet sent, for every flipping bit... not the connectivity but the activity.

    The carriers are battling to keep the

  • Protect us from having to evolve our business!

  • Rubbish. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @04:33AM (#41384357)

    Go to someone else, AT&T isn't the only choice. People survived just fine on (now) $10 dumbphones, worst case.

    People are so fucking entitled. Sorry, there is no "right to use stupid facetime on your hip Apple product".

    All that will happen if you win is they'll just jack up prices for everyone to cover it. At least now it's just a tax on stupid people who pay $100+ a month on their cell phones so they can get a "cheap" $199 iPhone.

  • I truly hope that A) you can buy apple products and use any carrier you like, and B) you can use at least 2 carriers in most areas of the US. Given this, why then buy a lousy "data plan" from AT&T when it obviously enforces ridiculous restrictions?
    • Both good questions, but unfortunately, changing telcos in the US is hard because B isn't always true. In major cities you usually have two, if not three or more carriers that have reasonable service.

      In the middle of the country you get one, or none. Those are the people getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop on this kind of stuff.

  • Good to see that Apple gets some of its own medicine: artificial restrictions.

  • Here's my question... does net neutrality even come into play here? AT&T doesn't block FaceTime traffic at all. You fan jailbreak your phone, install 3Gunrestrictor (or whatever it's called), and use FaceTime just fine over AT&T's network (I've done this). The blocking is in iOS. I don't know the exact mechanism, but once you pay AT&T, they somehow have the keys to toggle FT over cellular on your device.

    So, if this is the case (it's locked locally in device, AT&T with the keys from Apple

  • Read anti-tying provisions of the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act.

    This shit is illegal and you people are too scared to step up and sue.

  • I understand that AT&T is trying to argue that since FaceTime is a bundled app, they can restrict it however they like. If Apple cared, they could just make a FaceTime Pro app that is available in the app store and tell AT&T to go pound sand.

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