AT&T posted a pointed justification of its decision to place restrictions on FaceTime over cellular earlier today, with the carrier's VP of regulatory affairs saying that people "rushed to judgement" on their possible violation of the FCC's Open Internet regulations — but internet groups have already responded critically to AT&T's predictable defense. John Bergmayer from internet advocacy group Public Knowledge says that "the FCC's Open Internet rules do not distinguish between pre-loaded and downloaded apps," and that "they prevent carriers from blocking certain kinds of apps — period."
"The FCC's Open Internet rules prevent carriers from blocking certain kinds of apps — period."
In its post today, AT&T cheekily points out that "customers will continue to be able to use Wi-Fi irrespective of the data plan they choose." Bergmayer says that AT&T "has no say over what features customers may use over Wi-Fi," and that "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." Additionally, he says "now that every other US iPhone carrier besides AT&T will be offering cellular FaceTime on a nondiscriminatory basis, it is reasonable to assume that AT&T's demands were holding it back for everyone." (To be fair, Verizon hasn't said what it's going to do, but its safe to assume they won't block it -- particularly in light of the 700MHz Block C open access provision). It's not clear if AT&T actually held FaceTime back from anyone, but in any event, Bergmayer says that "no carrier should be able to dictate to Apple or any other handset manufacturer what features they may include on their phones."
"Once you buy a product from a company, it shouldn't be any of its business how you choose to use it. Then there's the upside-down world of AT&T."
Free Press is also responding in full-gear to AT&T's FaceTime move, sending out a number of bulletins, and urging citizens to sign a petition to the FCC. In a communication sent today, Free Press calls the row "AT&T's latest scam," and says that "we have a market dominated by companies that force consumers into ridiculous service plans that make you pay more for less." Moreover, the advocacy group says that "the FCC's Open Internet order explicitly prohibits AT&T from screwing over iPhone customers this way."
In the meantime, AT&T is unlikely to change its policy: according to the carrier, it's abiding perfectly by the government's existing rules, and the company's shareholders decisively voted against self-regulation earlier this year. We'll continue to track this story as it develops: given the pace of mudslinging so far, we're expecting more battles ahead.