A Partial Win for Net Neutrality
AT&T removes some restrictions on FaceTime traffic.
My definition of Net Neutrality is equal access and transport for all. Not every communications provider adheres to this definition. There have been and will continue to be battles between the FCC plus consumers and the communications providers.
AT&T announced on January 16, 2013 in its Consumer Blog, in a post entitled "FaceTime Update" that they would remove the restrictions on access to Apple's FaceTime voice and video application over their wireless network.
The blog stated, "When FaceTime over Cellular launched in September 2012, we explained that we wanted to roll it out gradually to ensure the service had minimal impact on the mobile experience for all of our customers. As a result of ongoing testing, we're announcing AT&T will enable FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge for customers with any tiered data plan using a compatible iOS device. This means iPhone 4S customers with tiered plans will be able to make FaceTime calls over the AT&T cellular network. AT&T previously made FaceTime over Cellular available to customers with a Mobile Share plan and those with an LTE device on tiered plans."
When AT&T limited access to FaceTime, they were discriminating against a specific application. This is counter to the concept of Net Neutrality. A customer expects to have access to any application that the wireless device can support. In allowing iPhone users to use FaceTime, AT&T is admitting its default position was not open access to all applications.
The reduction of the restriction, however, is not complete. AT&T is still blocking FaceTime for some users. Those with tiered plans--that is, those with unlimited data plans, are still blocked from the use of FaceTime. This violates the Open Internet principle. AT&T's testing, by their own admission, demonstrates that there was no impact to the network when running this application.
AT&T still allows existing unlimited data plan customers who upgrade their phones to continue with these plans. New customers cannot subscribe to unlimited plans. This policy should not give AT&T free rein to prevent customers from using any applications.
AT&T was prompted by Public Knowledge, Free Press, and the Open Technology Institute of New America Foundation, when they all threatened to submit a formal complaint to the FCC against AT&T. The goal was to open all applications on AT&T's network, which has only been partially accomplished. AT&T is still blocking some users.
The mission statement of Public Knowledge is to "preserve the openness of the Internet and the public's access to knowledge; promote creativity through balanced copyright; and uphold and protect the rights of consumers to use innovative technology lawfully." It is an organization worth following for coverage of Internet issues and protecting users and customers from restrictive limitations imposed by the providers.
This continued blocking action by AT&T demonstrates that we are not truly in a competitive environment. AT&T's partial blocking of FaceTime traffic while allowing an exemption from wired data caps for their own traffic is another violation of the principle of Net Neutrality. We can't allow providers to select what to allow and what not to allow to flow over their networks.
There are other blogs on Net Neutrality at NoJitter including: Net Neutrality Collision Course: U.S. and Europe?, Quick Review of Net Neutrality Challenges, Fluentstream, Part 2: Net Neutrality and the Cloud, Net Neutrality Matters, and The FCC Net Neutrality Framework: Ready for Prime Time?