updated 10:23 am EDT, Wed August 22, 2012
Claims limitations don't violate net neutrality rules
AT&T has posted an official response to complaints about the carrier's new FaceTime policy, which restricts 3G use of the app to people with a Mobile Share plan. Wi-Fi use is still unhindered. "The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones," an AT&T blogger claims.
"Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps," the post goes on. "Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services. AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems. (I won’t name any of them for fear that I will be accused by these same groups of discriminating in favor of those apps. But just go to your app store on your device and type "video chat.") Therefore, there is no net neutrality violation."
AT&T may be worried less about competition than the bandwidth video calling consumes; if cellular FaceTime becomes popular, it could force the carrier to upgrade its network to accommodate traffic. The issue could intensify after the launch of the next-generation iPhone, which is expected to support LTE as on the third-generation iPad; although LTE might in theory ease network congestion, it could also make FaceTime popular enough that it would still set AT&T back.