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AT&T faces Net neutrality complaint for FaceTime over 3G

Three public interest groups say they're filing a formal complaint against AT&T with the FCC for its policy on FaceTime over 3G.

Apple's FaceTime will be a feature that works over 3G beginning with iOS 6 tomorrow.
Apple's FaceTime will be a feature that works over 3G beginning with iOS 6 tomorrow. Apple

A trio public interest groups intend to file a formal complaint against telecom giant AT&T over a decision to require a specific wireless data plan to use Apple's FaceTime video chat over its 3G network.

In a notice today, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute said they intended to file a complaint against the carrier with the Federal Communications Commission asserting that AT&T has violated Net Neutrality with a policy that requires users to be on a specific data plan in order to use Apple's FaceTime video chat service on 3G.

"AT&T's decision to block FaceTime unless a customer pays for voice and text minutes she doesn't need is a clear violation of the FCC's Open Internet rules," Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said in a press release. "It's particularly outrageous that AT&T is requiring this for iPad users, given that this device isn't even capable of making voice calls."

Last month AT&T said it would allow only customers with its new Family Share plans to access feature over its cellular network. By contrast, U.S. rivals like Verizon and Sprint simply allowed it outright, counting any data usage against the monthly allotment in a subscriber's plan.

At the time, AT&T countered some of the immediate criticismby saying that the FCC's Net neutrality rules do not regulate applications that come pre-loaded on devices (such as FaceTime, which has shipped on iPhones since the iPhone 4 in 2010). Instead, AT&T's senior vice president of regulatory affairs Bob Quinn argued that the rules covered whether phone owners could download applications that competed with what AT&T offered out of the box.

In the group's note today, the organizations countered by saying that AT&T could not block apps that competed with its voice calling services, per the Open Internet rules the FCC passed in 2010.

News of the complaint comes just a day before Apple is set to release iOS 6, which enables FaceTime over 3G on the iPhone 4S and its third-generation iPad.

(via GigaOm)