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AT&T Defends its FaceTime over Cellular Decision, Blogosphere Outraged


On Monday, we heard exactly how AT&T plans to handle FaceTime calls over cellular, and I’d be willing to bet that not a single customer out there was satisfied. Rather than treat FaceTime like any other app that uses data, AT&T says they will require you to be on one of their Mobile Share plans, or no FaceTime over cellular for you… The response from customers pretty much equaled what you would expect—outrage along with widely-professed plans to switch carriers. Instead of letting the discontent fester, AT&T released this statement via their public policy blog (stimulating reading, no?). To get a gist of the tone of the post, just check out this little excerpt:

“In another knee jerk reaction, some groups have rushed to judgement and claimed that AT&T’s plans will violate the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Those arguments are wrong.”

Please, teach us more, Mr. Bob Quinn. He’s the lead of AT&T’s Federal Regulatory group, and he clearly takes issue with the idea that requiring a Mobile Share plan is against the rules. His reasoning? FaceTime is a pre-loaded app, which falls outside the net neutrality guidelines. As such, it’s being treated differently than all the other apps we download, and getting slapped with what Quinn calls “some reasonable restrictions.”

Mr. Quinn could have left it at that and hoped for minimal backlash, but instead he tried to paint AT&T in a very generous light by explaining that the cell provider is kind enough to provide ANY PRE-LOADED APPS AT ALL, when it’s not required to do so.

Many in the blogosphere are furious at AT&T’s response to its FaceTime criticism.

TUAW’s Victor Agreda Jr wrote: ” It’s obviously what’s going on here. Bean counters at AT&T decided the churn from lost customers was worth the added cost of lingering unlimited data customers like me…  and this is the last straw for me. AT&T clearly needs to bolster its network, and is happy to do that on the backs of clueless customers who are content to lump all their data needs together and be nickel-and-dimed over niceties like texting.”

App Advice’s Brian Wolfe wrote:  ” As a long-time AT&T customer, this move could finally be enough for me to consider switching to Verizon or Sprint. If I do, the company won’t just be losing my business, but also that of four others that share my AT&T account… I’ve grown increasingly tired of AT&T’s attempts to nickel and dime us whenever they seek new revenues.”

Nilay Patel from The Verge had this to say on twitter:

“AT&T on FaceTime: please let us shamelessly f**k you over while pretending “preloaded” and “downloaded” apps are somehow different.”

So, instead of complaining, I guess we’re all supposed to thank AT&T for their goodness to us and get back in line… But what if Apple made FaceTime downloadable instead, would that completely change the game? Look, Quinn’s statement might be entirely true, but it’s not about what is required of AT&T. Instead of finding loopholes through which they can further restrict the use of data we pay for, maybe AT&T should be more concerned about meeting the “reasonable expectations” of the people who keep them in business year after year.


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