AT&T Tries To Tapdance Around Net Neutrality Regulations

from the tap-tap-tap dept

I’m still not convinced the FCC really has the mandate to put in place net neutrality rules, but even so, it’s quite amazing to watch AT&T try to tap dance around them, while clearly violating both the spirit and the letter of the policies. The latest issue has to do with Apple’s Facetime video chat. While earlier rumors that AT&T would charge for using the app proved untrue, it did announce that the app would only be available for those paying for a higher level of service (which may effectively be the same thing). The usual parties quickly raised a stink, highlighting how AT&T appears to be violating the rules:

AT&T has now hit back, claiming that the complaints are “knee jerk” and they’re not doing anything wrong.

As far as I can tell, AT&T’s defense is two-fold:

  1. It believes that there is a loophole in the net neutrality rules in that it does not apply to preloaded apps, and they can set whatever access rules for such apps that they want:

    The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones. Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps. Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services.

  2. It believes that as long as some other competing apps are available, they can restrict the apps they want to restrict.

    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.

That’s a very interesting interpretation of these things, but doesn’t just create a loophole, it creates a giant vortex through which AT&T could restrict a huge number of apps just by pointing out that other such apps exist — even if they’re awful and no one uses them.

Of course, all of this is why we’ve argued for nearly a decade that the whole “net neutrality” fight is a red herring, anyway. The telcos are always going to find their own loopholes and ways around the rules (which they helped create anyway). The whole fight over net neutrality is not the problem. It’s a symptom of the real problem: a lack of serious competition in the marketplace. Get more competitors out there, and increase the fight over customers, and AT&T can’t get away with such moves.

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Companies: apple, at&t

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Comments on “AT&T Tries To Tapdance Around Net Neutrality Regulations”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

So, let me get this straight. As long as there is a competing application available on AT&T devices, its “totally neutral” for AT&T to throttle someone else’s app?

Got it.

ClarkeyBalboa says:

Re: Re:

I find it a bit horrifying that they feel they have the right to restrict access to a preloaded app. Facetime is a purchasing feature OF THE HARDWARE. Reminds me of Sony removing ‘Other OS’, and the fact they have won that court case will only empower other companies to pull that kind of thievery.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Facetime is a purchasing feature OF THE HARDWARE” [assuming you mean Facetime over cellular]

No, it isn’t. The hardware is being offered and sold as a product from the partnership of Apple and AT&T. Facetime, as AT&T customers get it, is a feature of the iOS, which is sold with the hardware.

If Apple/AT&T invented a new app (say movie streaming), and offered it, but limited it to WiFi only; would that be ‘offering something new’ or ‘blocking something’?

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah the FaceTime app is installed on the devices by default. The iPhone 4 and 4th Gen iPod Touch had it on the devices preinstalled.

To debunk your “Apple is AT&T” FUD arguments below, I would like to point out that the ORIGINAL AT&T version of Apple’s iPhone did not have a front facing camera. Did not have FaceTime either.

AT&T was the first carrier to take the iPhone under LISCENSE and CONTRACT with Apple because they negotiated exclusivity in the contract to carry the iPhone. That does not constitute a partnership or merger.

Now as a few people lauded out below it only applies to a shared data plan. I have something to point out about data plans people seem to miss.

In a shared data plan, whether it be limited or “unlimited”, they count down from a TOTAL use of the alotted data. Say you have a hypothetical 1 Gigabyte (1024MB) Shared plan in a family of 4. That’s 256MB of data per person per month. Say you have the standard throttling rate of 2GB (2048MB) on an “unlimited” plan, that’s 512MB per person per month before you get throttled.

FaceTime uses a lot of bandwidth, and to top it off, you have to consider that .mp4 movies in iTunes when you rent them avarage 1.2 to 1.5 GB in size. So you now have a second problem.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“That does not constitute a partnership or merger. “

Wally, I submit into evidence the following:

– one photo of a Steve Jobs standing in front of a massive wall-sized slide with the words “Apple’s Business Partners” and the AT&T logo displayed.

If that isn’t 100% of a bulls-eye, photo-evidence proof that you are wrong, then just click to slide 2 in the same slideshow. Or stuff like this:

I will accept your concession speech anytime.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

OK… I admit defeat on the debate on whether or not they are partners.

I am calling a truce here and I think I found a few things we can agree upon.

1. The partnership is on investment, and at one point until some time this year was exclusive. Apple and Microsoft are partners and have been since 1997.

2. Apple really did develop that version of FacetTime for all carriers not just AT&T. That exclusivity right ran out some time in May this year. You can still use the WiFi function (if AT&T still doesn’t have it restricted).

Now I will point out that I am quite well aware it only applies to Shared 3G/4G Shared Data Plans for AT&T….which I am quick to point out that it still has it’s flaws.

Under a shared Data Plan, the amount of data is divided by the number of people you have on the plan. To my understanding, and please I do ask you correct me on this specifically if I am wrong, a shared data plan is divided by how many users are on it (given you have a 2 GB data plan in a family of 4 each person gets 256 Megabytes to deal with)

The thing is, by FCC regulation, you are only supposed to measure data downloaded to the device and not the throughput or bandwidth used to make a connection to another phone. With what AT&T wants to do with it’s throttling, it wants to throttle based on the throughput measured in the connection between two people rather than that data actually revived.

Now I must explain to you how FaceTime works (if you know then I am reminding you that I know how it works). It is exactly like a phone system…with video…the connection is peer to peer. The devices do not do conference calls as you would with Skype because of that and they do not download data directly. It is like a phone.

So in essence, they are restricting the data rate of what would someone be making a normal phone call.

Exclusivity and restrictions alike they are still considering throttling what is considered by the FCC a normal phone call.

If they wont be throttling they will be measuring the data throughput being used on FaceTime and deduct from the total amount of data per user in the shared plan.

I want to give an example:
So say you spend almost 6 hours on FaceTime (My wif and I did this to on our cell phones a lot and ended up with $350 phone bills while we were dating). The data is pushed through the line at say average 3G speeds. That is roughly 500KbPs 1.4MbPs (Bits).

So lets take the amount of Upstream data sent though first:

500 Kbps x 6 hours

First we work out the time in Seconds:

3,600 seconds per hour x 6 hours = 129,600 seconds

Then Multiply by Data Rate

129,600 Seconds x 500 Kilobits per second = 66,355,200 Kilobits which = to 64,800 Megabits = 8,100 Megabytes = ~7.9 GB

OK lets try that with Downstream data revived:

We have already figured out there are 129,600 seconds in 6 hours.

Data and DataRate:
I have to convert to kilobits from megabits

So the average 3G data speed for down-streaming data is 1.4 Megabits per second.

1.4Mbits per second = ~1434 Kilobits (note it is rounded up from 1433.6 and I used Google’s calculator for the conversion)

129,600 Seconds x 1,434 Kilobits per second =
185,846,400 Kilobits = 181490.625 Megabits = ~22,686.328 Megabytes = ~22.154GB.

Now we add the total throughput of data together:
+ 7.900GB

That is 30.054GB of data for 6 hours of TOTAL use. AT&T wants to only have FaceTime restricted to their SHARED DATA PLAN. So do you see how much they would get in overage charges?

AT&T is known to throttle those in the top 5% of data use allocated in bandwidth use over time (again an FCC violation) so yes they will throttle you.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

1. OK. Thanks.

2. You are right that Apple develops similar code in iOS for all their carrier partners. But what you don’t seem to know is that in the iOS are “permission requests”, when certain functions or apps are launched. If Facetime is launched on a iPhone, the phone uses the SIM card as a subscriber ID, and calls the cellular network over the secure SS7 control channel to see what features of Facetime should be enabled. If the carrier’s systems reply “ok”, then Facetime launches with cellular enabled, if the carrier replies “no”, then Facetime launches as WiFi only.

An iPod would not have a cellular radio or SIM card, and would not make the check, and so launches as WiFi only, which makes sense on a non-phone.

If you have an un-locked, full-price, unsubsidized iPhone, franky, I’m not sure what it will do. I’ll have to see what iOS 6 reveals on this when it gets out.

If you Jailbreak and hack your iPhone, you may be able to get different behavior out of it, where it does allow cellular even if the carrier doesn’t respond “OK”. A Jailbroken phone could be hacked to not even ask the cellular network if it can use cellular for Facetime, or the hacker could spoof an “ok” response from within the iPhone itself.

Apple developed this “request approval” code to appease and work with their carrier partners. Why does Apple do things that appease carriers but aren’t what customers want? Because carriers by millions and millions of iPhones. End users buy a few each.

If you don’t understand me still, consider the case of wifi tethering from the iPhone. It’s pretty much the same as this Facetime over cellular issue. The iOS checks with the carrier network to see if tethering is allowed. If user pays for tethering, or if the carrier simply allows it for all users, then it will work, otherwise it returns a pop-up suggesting you ask your carrier for a tethering subscription. That’s a limitation WRITTEN BY APPLE into their iOS, not some blocking by the carrier. I don’t have to like it, but it’s not illegal nor against FCC rules.

Next: You seem to make up a lot of what you perceive to be FCC rules. That’s not how FCC rules work. There is a more elaborate rule-making process. Examples include:

“FCC regulation, you are only supposed to measure data downloaded to the device and not the throughput or bandwidth used to make a connection to another phone”

That’s just wrong. There is no such limitation, and in fact, the FCC doesn’t specify at all how carriers count data consumption.

As for how carriers DO count consumption, it is the following:

Data down to your phone + data sent from your phone + some network overhead = your consumption

There has been a fair bit of rightful complaining that we users are charged for network overhead, but it is more or less a steady, small percentage of total, so not a inflammatory issue.

You say it is, but Facetime is nothing like a normal phone call. “Normal phone calls” are circuit-switched legacy connections that are not packet-based. You said that in limiting Facetime, Apple and AT&T are blocking what is “considered by the FCC a normal phone call.” No, the FCC has not taken any position on whether it’s a normal phone call, and if they did, I would guess that they would conclude it is not.

Next, your assumptions are terrible. In 2010, AnandTech (respected tech blog) measured FaceTime’s video chat data use, and found consumption between 100 and 150 Kbps each way. So let’s assume 125 Kbps. Which would make data consumption 250 Kbps for uplink and downlink = 1.8MB per minute.

Another source suggests that Facetime today can use up to 3MB per minute. Perhaps that’s because of the retina display added since 2010.

So, we have a measured Facetime consumption of between 1.8 and 3 MB per minute.

Next, your math is all over the map…and wrong. You wrote
“3,600 seconds per hour x 6 hours = 129,600 seconds”
Run that through a calculator, please. It’s 21,600 seconds.

So, using correct assumptions and accurate math skillz, I’ll just jump to the answer:

You would use between 660 and 1080 MB in a six hour Facetime video chat. Let’s assume worst-case and say 1 GB.

Now, you bring up an interesting point, that if you are talking to your wife, and she is on the same shared plan, you would instantly be doubling the amount consumed in the plan for the one six-hour call. So, then 2GB. (You were only off by a factor of 15.)

Sample AT&T pricing is $90 for a 6GB shared plan, making the cost for 2GB around $30.

So, there you are. You can do a six-hour video call with another person anywhere on the other side of the the USA, and you can both be moving around, in cars, in the park, and the cost is $30. Why does that seem so ridiculous? In 2005, most people couldn’t look up sports scores on their mobile phones, now $30 for a 6-hr video call has people raging mad? (Look up “Louie CK airplane Wi-Fi” on youtube.)

Bottom line, Facetime wasn’t meant for six hour calls on cellular networks. That’s why it has historically been disabled.

BTW, since your wife and you had your long calls, AT&T and most other carriers have switched to plans that offer unlimited voice. Unlimited! Talk all day if you want. Anywhere in the country. So that call that cost you hundreds of dollars just a few years ago is not basically free/included. But I suppose nobody here wants to talk about what an awesome value that is, and how what we can do and the associated prices just seem to keep steadily dropping.

There’s all kinds of things that get me really angry at AT&T:
– charging separately for tethering
– warrantless wiretaps a few years back
– some anti-competitive behavior and lobbying
– roaming rates
– requiring a data plan on an iPhone, even if you bought the iPhone for $650 from the Apple store, unsubsidized
– forcing me to pay the normal rate, even if I bring my own phone and don’t take any subsidy (T-Mo doesn’t)
– terrible web site, customer service

Why is everyone all up in arms over something innocuous like Facetime limitations. Jeez. Just use Skype.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

We weren’t using AT&T. We were using our non AT&T Phones. Because of the bills resulting in that in one month for minutes overages I got us the pair of 4th Gen iPod touch which you adamantly deny has FaceTime. Second, I was giving that 6 hours as a monthly accumulative rate of data metering.

Also, how many iPhone 4s or iPad users just use their devices just to talk? Not many. Take for example my 4th Gen iPod touch which is very similar to the iPhone 4 and I don’t do just FaceTime on it. I have ripped CD music and all of Season 5 of the renewed Dr. Who series, the classic version of Charlie and the chocolate factory, and Family Guy’s It’s A Trap….that’s more than 2GB and definitely more than 6GB. So downloading that data from iTunes over cellular is quite taxing on a $30 per month per person 2GB plan. I could get the same or just a little higher (to $40) price out of Sprint for their non-throttled unlimited 3G plan if i fanagled a bit. Who wants to pay a shared data plan that “counters” overages on data that’s only 6 GB and $90 per month per person?

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Why is everyone all up in arms over something innocuous like Facetime limitations. Jeez. Just use Skype.”

FaceTime is not inocuous. It’s better than Skype on Peer to Peer calls and you are not charged extra to use FaceTime on other cellular networks.

Because AT&T can charge you for downloading Skype because Skype isnt a built in app for iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S or iPad…and they can legally meter the data throughput if you use Skype.

It’s not consumer friendly one iota.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

AT&T didn’t throttle somebody else’s app.

AT&T and their partner, Apple, offer the Facetime app as they offered it.

They are offering something (crippled), not blocking something. You know how you can tell? Do you hear Apply crying foul?

So is it a dick move? Yes. Is it remotely illegal or anti-neutrality? Not even a bit.

Let the anger rain down on me. I know it’s gonna hurt to point out the subtle truth.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“AT&T and their partner, Apple, offer the Facetime app as they offered it.”

If AT&T and Apple were partners, why is it that my 4th Generation iPod Touch had FaceTime on it? It clearly isn’t an AT&T device.

“Let the anger rain down on me. I know it’s gonna hurt to point out the subtle truth.”

My aren’t we pompous….you do realize of course FaceTime was never on the original AT&T exclusive iPhone(which DOES NOT HAVE A SCREEN SIDE CAMERA)? Speaking of exclusives, Apple and AT&T made a contract for exclusivity of sales on the iPhone. That doesn’t mean they are business partners. Also, FaceTime was created by Apple and as I mentioned, it’s been included on all iOS devices by default since the iPhone 4, and they have screen side cameras.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“My aren’t we pompous….”

Yes I am.

But everything you wrote after that is gibberish.


How do these partners work together to offer the software and built-in apps in the iPhone? With great difficulty, but they DO work as partners:

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Ok, did AT&T develop the iPhone 4 or 4th generation iPod Touch, iPad….nope. Regardless of contract, FaceTime is an APPLE DEVELOPED APP availible since iOS 4.01 which was the FIRST version of iOS my 4th Generation iPod touch and ALL first generation iPads, and iPhone 4. I don’t see any AT&T labels on my iPod or my parent’s iPads.

AT&T did not develope FaceTime or any other default apps on the iPhone 4 so they are not allowed to throttle the throughput on it. If they go through with it, it’s an FCC violation.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Wally. I think part of the problem may be that you aren’t very clever. You are refuting arguments that I never made. I don’t give a rat’s arse about your 4th gen iPod Touch, although you seem very, very proud of it.

I’m not talking about any Apple device that wasn’t sold through AT&T.

I have written over and over that Apple developed the Facetime app. In fact, that is one of the cornerstones of my argument. So don’t try to use it as a point to refute me.

The fact that Facetime is written by Apple, and that a limited version is sold through AT&T, is the indication that it is not AT&T throttling, but rather their partner Apple producing a limited functionality version of Facetime to sell through the AT&T channel.

The fact that this firestorm came to light before iOS 6 hits the market, and before AT&T even offered their shared data plans shows you how it is not a throttling. The public learned about this because they found the limitation in Apple’s code. Apples. Therefore, the Facetime app is made by Apple. The limitation is made by Apple. There is no blocking.

The surest way to see if a developers app is being blocked is to ask them if their app is being blocked. What do you think Apple would say about this case?

BTW, did you like being proven dead wrong on the “partnership” issue? Thanks for teeing me up with such a softball, I enjoyed hitting it out of the park.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Wally. I think part of the problem may be that you aren’t very clever. You are refuting arguments that I never made. I don’t give a rat’s arse about your 4th gen iPod Touch, although you seem very, very proud of it.”

Look at the first sentence. You’re just as bad.

Your source of information is from CNBC who owns a majority stock share in AT&T.

I’m proud of my 32GB 4th Gen iPod touch because it saved me a monthly $350US per month on cell phone phone bills talking to my now wife when we were dating.

You could use the WiFi connection for FaceTime on all versions of the AT&T licensed subsidiary version of the iPhone 4 which if I recall, the iPhones before it aren’t capable of FaceTime because it was included in iOS. You’re talking about the iPhone and iPhone 3GS and not the iPhone 4.

As a last result you result to insults and name calling. Neither if which prove anything.

As for FaceTime, even if you had an AT&T subsidized phone, the thing that proves FaceTime is an Apple only app is that it’s included in iOS if whether it’s an iPhone 4, or the current iPod Touch which came out in May 2010. The reason I point that out us because the iPod is clearly not a cell phone and still has has FaceTime availible. AT&T has no control over DEFUALT apps in the basic set of a phone’s opperating system according to FCC rules.
In iOS6, FaceTime has the popup asking whether you want to use your cell network or the WFi connection you have. This happens so all users with all carries could choose whether or not they used the 3G or 4G network. The feature was, once again for my umpteenth explanaition, coded into FaceTime by default for iOS 6.

Since it is a DEFAULT feature in the iPhone 4, which runs iOS regardless of subsidized plan or not. It’s an Apple featur by default.

That is why AT&T has no right to restrict it. It’s an FCC violation if they muck with default features in Apple’s products or anyone else’s.

DannyB (profile) says:

It is true that net neutrality is but a symptom of lack of competition. Nevertheless, it is the most likely way to enforce good behavior due to that lack of competition.

I don’t know how to make there be more competition (in a single given market).

But I do know how Net Neutrality makes things fair even without competition — or with competition and collusion between those competitors.

If you’re going to meter my bandwidth, then fine. You now have no right to say anything about how I use my data.

Quick Tethering Quiz.

Which costs more and which puts more stress on their network:
1. A 1 kilobyte packet transmitted between my phone and the tower.
2. A 1 kilobyte packet transmitted between my phone and the tower.
(Please note in the case of (1) the packet was from my mobile browser, and in the case of (2) the packet was from my laptop browser.)

If I have a 2 GB monthly data limit, which of the following activities will use more data on the network:
1. Downloading 2 GB of data to my mobile phone?
2. Downloading 2 GB of data to my laptop?

Nathan F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just to play devils advocate, (I am not a fan of their tethering rules either, I see them as a way to milk more money from a customer), there is going to be a lot more of those 1k FaceTime packets sent back and forth between the tower and your phone compared to the number of them coming from you surfing even 5 non streamed websites for the same duration.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If they are metering that data, then I would be paying for all those extra FaceTime packets. So what’s their problem?

Oh, yeah, right; it’s that this is something cool* that users are doing and so AT&T should somehow get paid more for it.

*I think Apple is evil, I do not use their products, but I was a huge fan up until About 1997. I use Google Talk, not FaceTime — but I join with and support the FaceTime users on this issue.

intellectualis proprietas pupillam est magnum sacculum canis stercus

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wouldn’t be a problem if people weren’t clinging to their unlimited plans because AT&T charges customers several orders of magnitude more for data than it costs the company. If they had reasonable metered billing people might be fine moving from unlimited to $1(.10?)/gigabyte pricing. Boo Hoo poor AT&T execs want another way to gauge customers for $1,000 dollars in overages like they did the sms text messages (that were essentially free).

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Not again!

Once again, I find myself defending an entity that I would ordinarily oppose. AT&T’s arguments, as summarized above, actually sound pretty compelling to me.

They are not banning other apps, merely setting conditions on the apps they choose to include prepackaged on the phone. So long as I can still download some other FaceTime type app, I don’t see an ethical problem.

I don’t even really see this as a loophole to net neutrality. AT&T isn’t restricting net traffic, but rather what apps they choose to put on the phone for you.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not again!

You are close, but not on target.

The point here is that there is a partnership between Apple and AT&T. The app that is loaded on the phone is provided exactly as the app developer (apple d app) chooses to load it.

In your example of YouTube, sure, they could do that, too. But so long as you could still go to the app store and get the other version, you are not being blocked.

At which point in the current outrage has AT&T blocked an app of function that the app developer wanted to offer? Heck, the app developer here probably coded up the specific app version, and paid service warning for AT&T.

If you want the subsidized iPhone, this is what you get. It is better than nothing, and worse than some other options. No blocking, no anti-neutrality.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not again!

Ahh, I was only going by the information in this writeup, and I missed that part. I had assumed that they had a special version of FaceTime and that was where the “throttling” was happening. In other words, that you could remove the FaceTime app and download a non-AT&T version of it that and it would run without throttling. Is that not the case?

Wally says:

Re: Re: Re: Not again!

Unfortunately it is not the case. Apple makes their own built in apps and cell phone companies aren’t allowed to mess with that according to FCC regulations. It so happens that it is a part of the functional use of an iPod/iPhone 4/4S/iPad2/3.

As an owner of an iPod capable of FaceTime, it’s included in iOS.

Oh and John, they way you put your last sentence before the question, I would recommend everyone write to Apple’s suggestion box on their website with that idea. Have FaceTime availible on iTunes so you can do just that.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not again!

Nah. People need to understand that when they get a subsidized iphone, they are not getting an “Apple iPhone”, but rather an “Apple & AT&T iPhone”. It is a specific product, and has come with some limitations from the iPod Touch or full-price iPhone ever since the 2007.

It’s a Faustian deal, and you have to eat a fair bit of @#$@ in order to get the cheaper iPhone.

I’m not saying I like AT&T’s move. But I think the anger is incorrect here.

What’s funny is how, once again, everyone is aiming their anger directly at AT&T, but not complaining one bit about Apple.

Apple is fully complicit in this — to the point of being the company that actually wrote the code that produces the undesired result.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not again!

It doesn’t matter if the phone is subsidized or not. The FaceTime app is a DEFAULT APP INCLUDED IN ALL VERSIONS OF iOS SINCE THE iPHONE 4 and 4th generation iPOD TOUCH. It is inherent and built into iOS regardless of subsidies or not.

If Apple were in this at all other carries that offer the iPhone in a subsidiary would be doing the same exact thing as AT&T. So regardless of net neutrality violation or not, it is still a violation of FCC rules to restrict apps that are not yours. Apple developers coded FaceTime into iOS as a functioning part of their product, not AT&T. FaceTime uses so little bandwidth to make a call, that I can have a 512kilobit downstream/ 128kilobit upstream connection and still get a smooth frame rate on both ends of the line.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not again!

Oh, I should also add that yes it is correct that they are proposing it being restricted to 4g Shared Data Plans. But there is a problem with shared plan people seem to forget….the caps are meant as emphasis only and not yelling…on second thought forget the caps:

In a shared data plan, whether it be limited or “unlimited”, they count down from a TOTAL use of the alotted data. Say you have a hypothetical 1 Gigabyte (1024MB) Shared plan in a family of 4. That’s 256MB of data per person per month. Say you have the standard throttling rate of 2GB (2048MB) on an “unlimited” plan, that’s 512MB per person per month before you get throttled.

FaceTime uses a lot of bandwidth and to top it off you have to consider that .mp4 movies in iTunes when you rent them avarage 1.2 to 1.5 GB in size. So you now have a second problem.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not again!

“Apple developers coded FaceTime into iOS as a functioning part of their product”

And they coded the limited version that they offer through AT&T as well. Apple did that. Not AT&T. AT&T didn’t “block” the Facetime app, they asked their partner to produce a different version on their network.


Perhaps. And Apple has more than one version. The AT&T channel iPhones have limitations that Apple coded in. That’s how this whole firestorm was detected, you know…developers found the code that proved this limitation in the iOS 6 SDKs. Upon launch, it will be limited in iOS, not by a blockage at AT&t. Why did Apple write that code in? For their partner, AT&T, of course.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Not again!

” Why did Apple write that code in? For their partner, AT&T, of course.”

The code is a popup that asks if you want to use your cellular network or wifi connection. It’s not exclusive to AT&T (who by the way is quite incapable of carrying the network load of FaceTime even if it tried), but to all cellular carriers. It’s just a feature added for everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if that popup came up on my iPod when iOS6 comes out.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not again!

” It is a specific product, and has come with some limitations from the iPod Touch or full-price iPhone ever since the 2007.”

4th gen iPod Touch isn’t cellular, it’s got the same featured apps as the iPhone 4. When I got MY 4th Generation iPod touch in April 2011, it had FaceTime included. The difference outside of the obvious hardware differences (GPS, Cellular Antanne, Vibration all missing in 4th Gen iPod Touch) was that the iPhone 4 had messaging on it. Since iOS 5, messaging has been included on the 4th generation iPod Touch.

I know my product better than you Mr. Kerton because I actually own a 4th generation iPod Touch. Other than a missing GPS chip, some missing vibrating bits, and a missing cellular antenna surrounding the shape of the device, it is the same exact thing as an iPhone 4. FaceTime is included by default.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not again!

“I know my product better than you Mr. Kerton.”

You’re most likely wrong, but it’s irrelevant. This isn’t about iPods versus iPhones, as you seem to want it to be. Or whether there are front-facing cameras or not. It’s about distribution channels and partnerships in the telecom value chain.

What I certainly know better than you is the operations, ecosystems, deal-making, incentives, backroom deals that power the mobile phone industry. Also, app development, distribution, OS ecosystems…basically anything telecom.

PS, where you quoted me above, I may not have been clear, but you misunderstood. When I wrote:

“It is a specific product, and has come with some limitations from the iPod Touch or full-price iPhone ever since the 2007.”

What I mean is that the AT&T version of the iPhone is a specific version of an Apple product, and has come with certain limitations WHICH SEPARATE IT from the iPod Touch or full-price (unlocked) iPhone. I never meant your iPod touch was limited.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Not again!

Except that this is the iPhone and AT&T gets to choose whether to include it just as much as they choose which shoes Tim Cook wears to the office. If they don’t want Facetime, they can choose not to sell the iPhone. I’d love to see how that works out for them.

Disclaimer: I’m leaving Verizon in the next few weeks for T-Mobile to get the Galaxy Nexus. AT&T and the iPhone are not even in consideration.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not again!

Depending on when exactly you’re leaving, I recommend keeping tabs on the new Nexus rumors circulating. Rumor is the HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus may be getting an update in a month or so.

In addition to that, the rumor is the first of several Nexus devices (each made by a different manufacturer) are going to be announced/released soon as well. (Current rumors list Samsung, Sony and LG as being the three “confirmed” for now.)

I normally don’t put too much stock in most of these rumors, but given that it is nearly the end of the year and from some comments/news released by Google in the past 6 months it is highly likely we will be seeing a new Nexus device (or five) pretty soon.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not again!

” The Galaxy Nexus is cheaply made.

[Citation Needed]”

Does the fact it was manufactured by ASUS mean anything?

Even PC World agrees:

The list goes on:

“After using the Nexus 7 for several weeks now, I?ve found that the device?s touchscreen has issues registering my inputs when it?s performing data intensive tasks like updating several apps at once. I can?t consistently replicate the issue, but it?s happened enough times to frustrate me. I?ve also noticed this issue with my girlfriend?s Nexus 7 as she was synchronizing the tablet with several apps from her phone.”

The problem is the touch screen heats up too much because of that quad core processor being jammed so close to its plastic bits as well.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not again!

My mistake, I had no idea that the title “Nexus” referred to Android OS’s classification of devices. Apple tried the same thing with the Performa series of computers a number of years ago and all it caused was customer confusion. I can now imagine being new to buying a phone/device, trying to select said device, and all you see is Nexus this and Nexus that with almost no difference in hardware specs or packaging between any of them.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Not again!

No, Nexus refers to the Android products Google sells. The Nexus 7 is a tablet (made by Asus), the Galaxy Nexus refers to the phone (made by Samsung), and the Nexus Q is a tv device (I don’t know who it’s made by). There is a huge difference in the hardware and specs. Honestly, for claiming to know so much about the build quality of a Nexus, you seem to not have ever been to Google’s Nexus store. It’s fairly obvious what the differences are.

mike says:

Re: Not again!

You missed this important part:

TL:DR, You can use Facetime over Wi-Fi. You can only use over 3g/4g with a share plan.

With the introduction of iOS6, we will extend the availability of the preloaded FaceTime to our mobile broadband network for our Mobile Share data plans which were designed to make more data available to consumers. To be clear, customers will continue to be able to use FaceTime over Wi-Fi irrespective of the data plan they choose. We are broadening our customers? ability to use the preloaded version of FaceTime but limiting it in this manner to our newly developed AT&T Mobile Share data plans out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience.

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re: Not again!

You missed the important part, a dumb pipe is a dumb pipe. If AT&T wireless(formerly Cingular, try not to forget long history of crappy companies changing their names because stepping in dog shit gets a better reaction) did not build up it’s infrastructure with the billions in profits it made gauging customers already, they get no sympathy for any issues they have providing service and trying to expand last minute now. Their situation is more complex than just adding in another tower or whatever, but those situations are also caused by their other cutthroat agreements among carriers to screw each other over, once again they are the cause of all their own problems.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not again!

Remrmber when the first generation iPhone was revealed and Steve Jobs had trouble getting reception in the building in San Fransisco? He was kind enough to cover for AT&T’s apparent problem stating it was a “software glitch” in the firmware of the device. We all know about AT&T’s coverage.

I saw the look on his face after that incident, he was pissed. Tried to hide it, but you could see fire in his eyes when he looked over at the AT&T execs.

gorehound (profile) says:

AT&T just gouged my 88 year old Dad’s DSL Bill.They offered him an upgrade for 19.95 per month and then turned around and charged him 34.95.I had to argue with a Salesperson and even pointed out that they sold him this Service last Month when both my Brother and I were physically at his home.My Brother and I both know about Computers and using the Internet, ETC.
Not only that issue but after we went home he had no service and had to hire his Computer guy who spent 3 hours at $50 per hour to try and get him Online.He finally had to give up.
Turned out that AT&T screwed up the Wiring for his Condo and once they sent a guy out to correct their mistake he was immediately Online.
So not only did it cost him $150 with that IT Guy but then AT&T overcharged his Bill and gave me a hard time over it.

PopeRatzo (profile) says:


AT&T’s explanation might be more compelling if it was anything like true. They’re not running out of bandwidth for their customers, they want to lock in higher profits long term.

It’s very hard to believe anything that AT&T claims, since they have been caught so many times lying to customers and engaging in unfair, anti-competitive business practices.

It appears that every so often a company of AT&T’s size needs to be broken up just because. There is no way that any company should have the kind of vertical integration they have. If we had anything like a Justice Department anti-trust division that cared about the law, we’d never see stories like this unless they were accompanied by a paragraph explaining the penalties they are facing.

Wally (profile) says:


Oh they are in even bigger trouble. Remember how disorganized the Oakland police were during the Ocupy protests? They found the problem. Turns out AT&T is running their 2G towers and said towers are on the same frequency spectrum of 850MHz because it was causing interference with the police department’s new radio system. They were ordered by the FCC to shut the towers down as it interfered with emergency services.

Ninja (profile) says:

Even if there were other players you can always form cartels and throttle different applications so every telco is throttling one of the most famous. Srsly, there should be clear and enforceable rules on net neutrality and using loopholes to circumvent them should be also punishable.

That along with real competition should be the way to go. Currently we lack both. It’s good to see Google stepping up in the field.

John Pettitt (profile) says:

Material change?

So does charging for facetime data constitute a material change to ATT’s data plan (I have unlimited data grandfathered in, this is a limit on data, ergo a material change)? If it does then that means I’m off the hook for my contract and can dump AT&T when the iPhone 5 comes out …

This could be a huge issue for ATT if the idea catches on …

justin says:


Sadly my opinion of Apple is so low I’d recommend people to use other products. I know Apple nut huggers will never do this so I guess they’ll have to use another service until ATT pulls it’s head out of their ass.
That said, I personally find ATT less offensive and more affordable than Timewarner or Comcast. With or without facetime.

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