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AT&T Defends Controversial FaceTime Policy Following Widespread Backlash 220

zacharye writes "AT&T is wasting no time hitting back at critics of its decision to limit the use of popular video chat app FaceTime over its cellular network to users who sign up for its shared data plans. In a post on the company's official public policy blog on Wednesday, AT&T chief privacy officer Bob Quinn sneered at criticisms that restricting FaceTime over cellular to shared data plans violates the Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality rules for wireless networks."
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AT&T Defends Controversial FaceTime Policy Following Widespread Backlash

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  • by a-zarkon! ( 1030790 ) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @10:59AM (#41081271)

    I know I'm not. They can't upgrade the infrastructure fast enough to keep up with the explosion in devices and bandwidth-hungry applications, so they rate-limit, restrict, and jack the rates on an increasingly over-subscribed (with corresponding decreases in performance) in the interest of keeping things just usable enough to not lose too many customers.

    It's not like there are a lot of alternative providers out there who offer better service or more compelling pricing....

  • by mkraft ( 200694 ) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:01AM (#41081303)

    I know back in the day Verizon, AT&T and other providers used to get to pick and choose what built-in apps they wanted on their phones, but that's not done anymore since phones aren't really customized for carriers anymore. At least not in the case of the iPhone (other than the CDMA/GSM difference). The same built-in apps are on all iPhones, regardless of the carrier. As such the FaceTime app is being provided by Apple, not AT&T. It shouldn't make any difference whether it's built-in or downloaded. If it did, then Apple could simply add a FaceTime 3G Unlock app to the App Store and then according to AT&T's logic, AT&T would have to allow it.

    I suppose since AT&T is subsidizing iPhones, that AT&T can have some say over how things work, but how can they justify applying those same restrictions to people paying full price for the phone or no longer under contract?

  • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:11AM (#41081421) Journal

    What will be interesting is if they try this crap on LTE, where there are contractual obligations to not discriminate based on application usage in the Block-B spectrum they purchased. Verizon has already gone down this road with something more ambiguous (tethering) and lost. This is an actual application that they are discriminating against.

    AT&T may not be able to get away with this shit for very long before running afoul of the FCC.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @01:10PM (#41083081) Homepage Journal

    I read the response to the question of whether AT&T's action violates net neutrality requirements... and any shyster lawyer would be proud of the crazy hair-splitting Quinn uses to justify his position that it does not.

    His argument basically boils down to a claim that it's not a violation of net neutrality for AT&T to block the FaceTime traffic because -- get this -- the app comes pre-installed. He states that if the app were installed from the app store and AT&T were then to block it, that would be a violation of net neutrality. He even points out that there are other video chat apps available on the app store which can be used over AT&T's cellular network (though he refuses to mention Google+ Hangouts directly).

    What makes it all really obnoxious is that he then tries to paint this lawyerly hair-splitting as a reasonable position. It is perhaps possible that he's actually right that AT&T's actions satisfy the letter of the FTC net neutrality regulation. But nobody with a brain can believe that it actually makes sense.

  • by hazydave ( 96747 ) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:14PM (#41084057)

    Well, some of it is specific to AT&T.

    Back when Verizon had already completed their 3G buildout (every cell site), Cingular and AT&T Mobile were merging two different networks into a single thing. That meant replacing essentially half of the 2G TDMA (DAMPS) cells with 3G/HSPA. Then they went back and replaced/upgraded most of the HSPA with HSPA+, and now they're adding LTE. Verizon skipped all that intermediate stuff and just added LTE.

    With that said, they're both showing 40%-ish profits these days. It's hard to have too much sympathy for their sad plight, or when they screw over customers yet again, regardless of the reason.

    As for 4G, in fact, a T1 backhaul isn't sufficient for 100 connections on HSPA, much less LTE. In fact, a single T1/DS1 circuit isn't sufficient for a single HSPA backhaul. New towers are nearly always Ethernet over optical fiber or perhaps high-speed point-to-point microwave (1Gb/s backhaul over 20 miles for under $40K in gear). Only those offering only 2G access ought to still be using a single T1 link (you need 14 T1 links to properly support a 3G/HSPA cell). But I agree... the cost of upgrade some remote-ass tower (like the one near my house in South Jersey, I'm guessing) isn't particularly attractive relative to the number of users likely to hit that tower in any given day. The one loophole in that -- carriers like to have really good service along major roads, and that may provide justification enough.

  • by zzsmirkzz ( 974536 ) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:41PM (#41084475)

    because -- get this -- the app comes pre-installed.

    My thoughts are that since it is pre-installed, was advertised as a feature of the phone purchased and the cellular service contract that blocking it constitutes false advertising, bait-and-switch and the like. Cue the lawsuits!

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