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Advocacies take their case to federal regulators arguing that AT&T is violating current Congressional-empowered mandates

AT&T, Inc. (T) created a mighty brouhaha when it cut off 3G/4G FaceTime use for Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iPhone owners on older contracts, including its grandfathered unlimited plans.  AT&T was the only major carrier to do so.

Rumor had it that the policy might be in violation of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet mandate, which blocks mobile carriers from denying new mobile applications access to their networks.  Indeed, that complaint has come courtesy of an advocacy trio -- Free PressPublic Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood remarked in a press release, "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."

While net-neutrality remains a contentious mandate -- particularly among Republicans who argue that the FCC's regulation hurts the free market -- it does appear that AT&T violated the current rules, passed back in 2010.

FaceTime
AT&T's FaceTime ban has been challenged in a federal complaint. [Image Source: Apple]

Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer comments, "By blocking FaceTime, AT&T is harming its users and holding back mobile innovation.  What’s more, its behavior is illegal. When the FCC adopted its Open Internet rules, it guaranteed that mobile users would be protected from such behavior. Public Knowledge intends to follow the process the FCC established to make sure AT&T follows the law."

The filing puts AT&T in a bind, as it may eventually be forced to cave in a precedent-setting reversal.

AT&T, of course, is expected to give a response in the next few days, but there's little it can do at this point to avoid the growing storm of negative publicity.

Source: Public Knowledge [PR]



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RE: Good
By Reclaimer77 on 9/18/2012 3:16:08 PM , Rating: 1
It's not up to Congress if a provider allows FaceTime or not. Goddammit, this is what's so wrong with our country today! It was never set up to properly regulate every single aspect of everything, it just cannot do that efficiently.

Look at the big picture you jackass iTard.


RE: Good
By Reclaimer77 on 9/18/12, Rating: 0
RE: Good
By lightfoot on 9/18/12, Rating: 0
RE: Good
By Reclaimer77 on 9/18/2012 3:41:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Why should AT&T have the right to determine which data goes through and which does not?


The company who built and maintains their network? Is this a rhetorical question?

Once again we see how Government interference creates bubbles and unintended consequences. Facetime is a massive popular application used by millions. If market forces were to be allowed to play out here, this decision would cause a flood of business to the two other carriers who pledged to allow it. This would have financially damaged AT&T, probably to the point that they would be forced to reverse their decision. Probably from a combination of bad press, word of mouth, and profit losses.

Why is it just so easy for people to support the big Government solution?

You know what, I think it's unfair that Wendy's charges me .36 cents for an extra slice of cheese when other places don't. Would you support a bill mandating that all burger places be regulated under the Cheese Neutrality Act? Probably!

It's not so much that Net Neutrality isn't a novel goal, but how anyone can think placing the Internet and Cellular services under FCC control is a good idea is beyond me. In the end this will hurt competition and free market mechanisms, and just lead to higher prices for consumers.


RE: Good
By Solandri on 9/18/2012 6:32:39 PM , Rating: 1
Government regulation is needed in this case to undo the consequences of other government regulation. If this were a perfectly libertarian society, the airwaves would be unregulated and anyone could become a cellular service provider. (I don't think it would work very well, but that's what it would be).

Instead, the FCC restricted access to frequency spectrum. Auctioned them out, and give the purchasers a monopoly for broadcasting at those frequencies. That monopoly and the limited number of spectrum slots is what allows AT&T to get away with things like restricting Facetime. Consequently, further regulation is needed to counter this unintended side-effects of that monopoly.

Personally, my take on all this is just to prohibit the companies which own the frequency spectrum from transmitting data over it. You can own the pipes, or you can own what flows through the pipes, but you can't own both. Spectrum should be owned by cell phone tower companies. They're free to build towers, but prohibited from transmitting data. They have to sell broadcast time on those towers to other companies (e.g. cell phone service providers) who do the data transmission, but are prohibited from owning towers.

That way every tower owner is competing with every other tower owner. And every service provider is competing with other service providers. And no one company can use an advantage in coverage to counter a disadvantage in service plans, or vice versa. All coverage (towers) compete on their own merit. All service plans compete on their own merit. And there are no artificial market impediments to improvement - there's always an incentive to provide the best tower coverage, and there's always an incentive to provide the best service plans.


RE: Good
By nolisi on 9/18/2012 6:40:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You can own the pipes, or you can own what flows through the pipes, but you can't own both. Spectrum should be owned by cell phone tower companies. They're free to build towers, but prohibited from transmitting data


Um, this would be a regulation...


RE: Good
By thurston2 on 9/18/2012 6:45:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If market forces were to be allowed to play out here, this decision would cause a flood of business to the two other carriers who pledged to allow it.


Most people are locked into a contract so they cant switch carriers when they want.


RE: Good
By Reclaimer77 on 9/18/2012 7:21:13 PM , Rating: 2
Yes they can. They can either pay a fee or just wait. Owning a smartphone fee-free isn't some Constitutional right.

This sense of entitlement the Government has cultured and grown in this country is disgusting. The second something happens we don't like, we run to Uncle Sam to make it an act of Congress. No wonder their approval numbers are so low.


RE: Good
By Bateluer on 9/18/2012 7:50:10 PM , Rating: 2
Most people have to pay an ~350 dollar ETF to leave a contract. Given that, most will not readily jump from carrier to carrier, which is what would be needed for free market. Like what you are suggesting. Unhappy with AT&T, switch to Verizon. Oh wait, that'll cost you 350 dollars, plus another 200 for a new phone. Thus, the customer sticks with AT&T and continues paying their monthly bill.

And all the while, innovative and new services/applications are stifled or killed because they're blocked by the carrier.

I can sort of see AT&T's stance with blocking video chat on their old Unlimited plans though. There's potential for abuse, certainly.


RE: Good
By amanojaku on 9/18/2012 9:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
Sigh...
quote:
You know what, I think it's unfair that Wendy's charges me .36 cents for an extra slice of cheese when other places don't. Would you support a bill mandating that all burger places be regulated under the Cheese Neutrality Act? Probably!
Poor analogy. What AT&T is doing is more like Wendy's forcing you to buy cheese when you decide to eat in. The tables and chairs are part of the service, just like FaceTime is part of your data plan. Anyone who goes over their monthly data allocation pays overage fees.
quote:
It's not so much that Net Neutrality isn't a novel goal, but how anyone can think placing the Internet and Cellular services under FCC control is a good idea is beyond me. In the end this will hurt competition and free market mechanisms, and just lead to higher prices for consumers.
Perhaps you missed the bit where AT&T is forcing people to buy services that have nothing to do with FaceTime? AT&T customers are already paying higher prices; the FCC's actions will prevent this. Data is data, it doesn't matter if it's FaceTime or FTP. If consumers use more data, they pay for more data. They shouldn't be forced to buy voice and text. There are similar laws preventing this kind of abuse for many other types of businesses.


RE: Good
By Fujikoma on 9/19/2012 7:42:53 AM , Rating: 2
AT&T didn't single handedly build their infrastructure. The U.S. governement has dumped quite a bit of money into laying fibre optic cables and helping telecoms in other areas. Who do you think watches over the switching stations... rent-a-cops? You think all the telcos eat the cost of launching a satellite or even the cost of that satellite? Who pays for the roads to their offices? Who pays for the education of their workers?
AT&T is bound by the law. That wonderful govenerment interference you don't like keeps your water and air cleaner, prevents companies from unilaterally screwing their workers over, providing safer work environments, eliminating child/slave labor and a host of other things.
As to your ignorant comment about the other companies picking up the slack... it's clearly the position of large dominant corporations to work in collusion (be it music, computer components, gas... to inflate margins). They would follow suit because there is money to be made. Why do you think ALL of them charge for personal texting when it uses less bandwidth than talking.


RE: Good
By Ammohunt on 9/18/2012 4:31:12 PM , Rating: 2
So it begs the question: Who determines what types of data are more important than others? is there such a thing? is your data more important than my data? is your data more important than say Hospital data e.g. facetime stream vs. emergency x-ray image transfers?


RE: Good
By tayb on 9/18/2012 4:10:38 PM , Rating: 3
LOL. You can't make this stuff up, you just can't!


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