November 11th, 2012 20:13 EST
AT&T to Reverse Course and End Current Practice of Blocking the FaceTime Video Calling Application
Public interest groups prepared to file FCC complaint if AT&T fails to make FaceTime available to all customers
WASHINGTON - On Thursday, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Jim Cicconi released a statement indicating that AT&T will reverse course and end its current practice of blocking the FaceTime video calling application over its cellular network unless customers first subscribe to an AT&T "Mobile Share" data plan.
AT&T indicated it will shortly begin a phased rollout of mobile FaceTime, starting with customers on all "tiered data plans" with LTE devices, and said it anticipates expanding FaceTime`s availability to its "customers on other billing plans in the near future." AT&T also said it will allow deaf and hard-of-hearing customers on its tiered Text Accessibility Plans to use mobile FaceTime.
AT&T`s statement comes after public interest groups Free Press, Public Knowledge and New America Foundation`s Open Technology Institute notified AT&T of their intent to file a formal complaint at the Federal Communications Commission against AT&T`s illegal FaceTime blocking. The groups will move forward and file their complaint if AT&T fails to make FaceTime available to all of its customers in a timely manner.
"The law is clear," said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. "AT&T cannot block FaceTime based on claims of potential congestion. There`s nothing even remotely reasonable about that approach. AT&T simply can`t justify blocking an app that competes with its voice and texting services unless customers purchase a more expensive monthly plan that includes an unlimited amount of those very same services. AT&T`s course correction is a move in the right direction, but until the company makes FaceTime available to all of its customers it is still in violation of the FCC`s rules and the broader principles of Net Neutrality."
"Our primary goal all along has been to bring a swift end to AT&T`s practices that harm consumers, competition and innovation," said Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer. "An FCC complaint offers a path to a positive resolution for consumers, but it`s a path with an uncertain timeline. So we are willing to wait and see if AT&T will follow through with its promise to end its illegal practices in short order. We still intend to pursue legal action against AT&T if it doesn`t make FaceTime available to all of its customers quickly."
"AT&T`s modification of its plans for deaf and hard-of-hearing users is a move in the right direction, but it falls far short of what`s needed," said Free Press activist and FaceTime user Brendan Gramer. "AT&T continues to block mobile FaceTime for deaf iPad users like myself, and many of my friends and relatives who are AT&T subscribers remain unable to use this important communications technology. This highlights why it`s imperative that AT&T act without delay on its stated intentions, and make mobile FaceTime available to all of its customers."