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Carrier indicates it will cease practice of allowing only Mobile Share customers access to mobile FaceTime.
Public interest groups prepared to file FCC complaint if AT&T fails to make FaceTime available to all customers.
On Thursday, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Jim Cicconi released a statement indicating that AT&T will reverse course and end its current practice of blocking the FaceTime video calling application over its cellular network unless customers first subscribe to an AT&T "Mobile Share" data plan.
AT&T indicated it will shortly begin a phased rollout of mobile FaceTime, starting with customers on "all of our tiered data plans with an LTE device," and said it anticipates expanding FaceTime’s availability to its "customers on other billing plans in the near future." AT&T also said it will allow deaf and hard-of-hearing customers on its tiered Text Accessibility Plans to use mobile FaceTime.
AT&T's statement comes after public interest groups Free Press, Public Knowledge and New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute notified AT&T of their intent to file a formal complaint at the Federal Communications Commission against AT&T's illegal FaceTime blocking. The groups will move forward and file their complaint if AT&T fails to make FaceTime available to all of its customers in a timely manner.
"The law is clear," said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. "AT&T cannot block FaceTime based on claims of potential congestion. There’s nothing even remotely reasonable about that approach. AT&T simply can’t justify blocking an app that competes with its voice and texting services unless customers purchase a more expensive monthly plan that includes an unlimited amount of those very same services. AT&T's course correction is a move in the right direction, but until the company makes FaceTime available to all of its customers it is still in violation of the FCC's rules and the broader principles of Net Neutrality .
"Our primary goal all along has been to bring a swift end to AT&T's practices that harm consumers, competition and innovation," said Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer. "An FCC complaint offers a path to a positive resolution for consumers, but it’s a path with an uncertain timeline. So we are willing to wait and see if AT&T will follow through with its promise to end its illegal practices in short order. We still intend to pursue legal action against AT&T if it doesn’t make FaceTime available to all of its customers quickly.
"AT&T's modification of its plans for deaf and hard-of-hearing users is a move in the right direction, but it falls far short of what's needed," said Free Press activist and FaceTime user Brendan Gramer. "AT&T continues to block mobile FaceTime for deaf iPad users like myself, and many of my friends and relatives who are AT&T subscribers remain unable to use this important communications technology. This highlights why it’s imperative that AT&T act without delay on its stated intentions, and make mobile FaceTime available to all of its customers."