Following allegations that its just announced FaceTime payment plan violates FCC guidelines, AT&T has responded with a statement calling the outrage a "knee jerk reaction," the kind of explanation that makes angry consumers even angrier.
When AT&T announced that it wouldn't charge extra for FaceTime over data network plans that are slated to come out soon. But, the caveat was that users had to sign up for a share-data plan, which meant that not everyone on AT&T's plans would have access. That share data plan also happens to be more expensive for certain users. Hence the anger: "There is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime and another not," John Bergmayer, senior staff lawyer at Public Knowledge told The New York Times' Brian X. Chen, citing an FCC guideline that says mobile providers can't "block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services." AT&T, however, asserts it has violated no rules, saying its plan doesn't violate the policy because people can access FaceTime over WiFi if they want.
Though AT&T may not be breaking the law, the set-up really looks like the company is trying to bully people into spending more for plans. Not only is the argument "flimsy," as TechCrunch's Chriz Velazco put it, it's unfair. "It's a dangerous, slippery slope to limit smartphone features on a device just because a customer doesn't sign up for the most expensive data plan. If you buy data, it should be your data to use as you want," Business Insider's Steve Kovach writes.
AT&T, however, only has to abide by the law and not what consumers want, reiterating in this post how it doesn't violate any FCC guidelines. But that hasn't satisfied observers, anyway. "It is disingenuous of AT&T to point to the availability of FaceTime over Wi-Fi as some sort of benefit it provides to its customers," Bergmayer wrote as a response to AT&T on the Public Knowledge site. "No carrier should be able to dictate to Apple or any other handset manufacturer what features they may include on their phones," he wrote. Free Press, another consumer advocacy group, has responded with harsher words calling this "AT&T's latest scam," per The Verge, calling AT&T a "market dominated by companies that force consumers into ridiculous service plans that make you pay more for less." They also have a petition going around.
So far, the criticism hasn't changed AT&T's stance. Though, we will see the real damage when the new iPhone iOS comes out with data FaceTime capabilities. Then, AT&T might not feel the same. "Keep digging that hole AT&T. This stuff might have worked when you were the only carrier that offered the iPhone," warns EverythingiCafe's Christopher Meinck. It's true: Bullies need leverage and AT&T doesn't have as much as it used to.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.