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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.

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 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
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...

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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