WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute notified AT&T of their intent to file a formal complaint against the company. In the complaint, the three organizations will assert that AT&T is violating Net Neutrality by blocking the popular video-conferencing application FaceTime. The groups will file the complaint with the Federal Communications Commission in the coming weeks. Under the agency’s Open Internet rules, which prohibit companies from blocking such applications on their mobile networks, anyone filing a formal complaint must give at least 10 days’ notice of their intent to file.
The complaint follows the release of Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 6, which enables customers to use FaceTime over mobile networks. Previously, FaceTime use was limited to Wi-Fi connections. AT&T has indicated that it will block customers from using FaceTime via mobile devices unless they subscribe to one of its new “Mobile Share” plans.
“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,” said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. "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."
Under the Open Internet rules the FCC passed in 2010, AT&T cannot block apps that compete with the company's traditional voice-calling service.
"By blocking FaceTime, AT&T is harming its users and holding back mobile innovation,” said Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer. “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 groups urged the Commission to stop AT&T's actions.
"AT&T's decision to block mobile FaceTime on many data plans is a direct contradiction of the Commission's Open Internet rules for mobile providers,” said Sarah Morris, policy counsel for the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. “For those rules to actually protect consumers and allow them to choose the services they use, the Commission must act quickly in reviewing complaints before it."