One of the main concerns of those who worry about net neutrality is how a network provider might block or charge extra for competing services. For example, telcos who still make a fair bit of money from voice services might not like competing services like Skype. Or... Apple FaceTime. So it's interesting to see a report from 9to5Mac suggesting that AT&T may be planning to charge extra to use FaceTime over cellular
. This came out when testing iOS6 and receiving a popup requiring "activation." Here's the screenshot of what 9to5 saw:
This does not absolutely mean that they're going to charge. Currently, FaceTime only works over WiFi, but iOS6 is set to enable it for cellular. It's possible
that this popup is just because iOS6 is still in beta, and it's just a generic message for a service that is not yet available. But it's at least raising concerns about the intentions of AT&T, with groups like Free Press already warning that this would violate existing (if contested) FCC rules on net neutrality
(which, it should be noted are very, very limited when it comes to mobile services). To be honest, I'm not sure why AT&T would actually go down this path. It's already trying to cap and/or meter mobile bandwidth, so it already has a natural restriction on usage. Furthermore, since the iPhone is now widely available on other platforms, charging extra for FaceTime seems like a perfect strategy for driving iPhone users to other mobile operators.