back to article Man files FCC complaint over AT&T FaceTime blocking

A San Francisco man has filed a complaint against AT&T with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the carrier's decision to charge customers extra to use Apple's FaceTime video conferencing on its 3G and 4G networks. The man, an architect who wishes to remain anonymous, told Business Insider on Wednesday that …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All bits are equal

    Its just that some bits are more equal than others.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: All bits are equal

      Unfortunately that's the bit that AT&T doesn't understand.

    2. LarsG


      'We reserve the right to change what we want to, when we want to, how we want to at any time during your contract period. We do not have to consult you, ask your permission or anything because we are in charge and have written the contract terms.

      We also reserve the right to stick two fingers up at your consumer rights because we are bigger that you and you'd never have enough in you bak account to take us to court.

      We also reserve to right to ignore you if we so choose and if the service is not up to scratch then so what. Go somewhere else if you don't like it'. Symbol of the finger.

      Of course, you do have a choice to move you contract, to somewhere less favourable and with the same contract terms.

      1. Velv



        Actually, no, it's not simply a case of reading the small print.

        If the small print is unfair, then the law is on the side of the person who didn't write the contract. You cannot put in just anything, it must be fair and reasonable.

        I'll concede it might be "stressful" to take on the network, hence why the regulator has a complaints procedure that everyone affected should follow.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Unfortunately you still need to PROVE that it is 'unreasonable', which costs money and time etc...

          Most big corporate entities are now completely immoral and would much rather screw their customers than provide good service etc...

          Paypal is one of the latest to introduce "no class action" clauses in their contracts, which means that if the break the law and steal your money you have cannot start a class action against them even though they may have broken the law and against many people.

          Not that class action suits now have any bite though. A big corp loosing and having to pay $5M is nuts, especially when usually 70% is lawyer fees and the consumer doesn't even get the money they were screwed out of. Most of the time they don't even have to actually pay anything and can give out 'vouchers' for 'store credit' for $1.25 !!! Disgusting and offensive all around I think.

          I am currently trying to get my money back from Apple for an app that flat out doesn't work (it used to work but after purchasing additional in app content the app stopped working completely). They are ignoring me even though I tried their completely useless "report a problem" button, which just takes me to their customer support page with NO links visible to complain with (they might be there, but I spent a long time trying to find them)

          ATT with their "if you have a smart phone you MUST buy a data plan" is another example of them screwing their customers. Why in Gods name MUST I use your data plan? I have my own MiFi for internet. I don't want to have to use ATT for data.

          Hopefully soon there will be a revolution and people will eventually realize that big corps own the legal system and are screwing us all.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AT&T net neutrality

    It seems mad that AT&T are selling 4G connectivity in this way. 4G is supposed to be all about high data rate applications isn't it? Doesn't that imply streaming video, things like Facetime, large downloads, etc? If you're not going to use 4G for those sorts of things why bother with it in the first place?! 3G (though maybe not AT&T's 3G) would be perfectly good enough otherwise.

    AT&T are either:

    1) over estimating what the market is willing to pay,

    2) have under prepared their back end network infrastructure to cope with the data rates implied by customers actually using 4G and are trying to put them off doing so. Perhaps they're trying not to admit that their 3G network was rubbish and that the easiest way of fixing it is to deploy LTE instead, but would rather you stuck to web browsing.

    3) don't give a shit. Apple have shown very clearly indeed that you can sell expensive shiny kit to people despite deficiencies too numerous to list here. 4G is the network operators' equivalent of "cool 'n' shiny", but that doesn't mean that they actually have to make it work to sell to punters. If Apple can get away with it for the hardware why shouldn't AT&T get away with it for the connection? In that context their service level seems fair enough.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AT&T net neutrality

      Answer: None of the above.

      AT&T simply wants to do anything and everything they can to get people away from their unlimited data plans. Withholding FaceTime from unlimited data plan customers is AT&T's form of "sitck and carrot" to try to nudge people off of these unwanted (from AT&T's perspective) plans.

      AT&T knows damn well that their current policy violates the FCC's Open Internet rules. They also know that eventually the FCC will step in and make them end this policy. But they don't care. All they are doing is buying more time to get their unlimited data plan customers to switch to limited data plans -- and once they switch, they can never switch back.

      Of course, the whole reason AT&T hates the unlimited data plans is because data already is and will continue to cannibalize their voice and text revenues. Offering unlimited data is nearly the same as offering unlimited text, unlimited voice, *and* unlimited data, in today's market. And they just don't want to be anywhere near that generous.

  3. Old Handle

    This issue has left me a little confused. On the one hand, if I pay an internet connection of any sort, I feel I ought to be able to use it for any purpose I choose. But on the other hand, I wouldn't expect to be able to send a fax over the internet (without some third part service) any more than I'd expect to send text message over a landline.

    So my point is, at least one article I read implied FaceTime has to be "supported" by a carrier, which suggests it uses something other than a straight IP connection. Meanwhile other descriptions (such as this one) refer to AT&T "blocking" it, which implies by default it would have worked and the took an active step to prevent it.

    Does anyone know which is a more accurate description of the situation?

    1. Da Weezil

      ... and yet my last 3 DECT sets have been able to do just that... SMS over a landline connection.

      My reading of this is that The capability exists in the handsets but is blocked by the network unless you allow yourself to be gouged onto a higher priced plan.

      Looks like the customer-centric US business is a myth - at least in many of the larger companies.

    2. Andy Christ

      "Supported" = "Not Blocked"

      FaceTime has always worked over cellular on appropriately modded, jailbroken iThingies.

    3. Matt_payne666

      If I tether my girlfriends iPhone to my iPhone (both unjailbroken) she can FaceTime just fine using my 3G connection so no, nothing special needs to be at the telcos end...

      It purely is greed... Let's milk an apple user cash cow!

    4. Vic

      > I wouldn't expect to be able to send a fax over the internet

      If I had paid for an Internet device that sent and received faxes *and* a friend had done the same, I would very much expect to be able to send him a fax over the Internet.

      Such is the case with FaceTime between two iPhone owners; both have paid money to do the conversion of images/sound into data and back again; all they want is for their carrier - who has sold them a package promising to carry their data - to carry that data. IOW, they want what they were sold.

      > at least one article I read implied FaceTime has to be "supported" by a carrier

      No, it just needs to carry the data. The phones make sense of it...


    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My issue isn't with the charging extra per-se, but if I am on a limited data plan then how I use that data should be up to me. If I want to blow through my 200MB on facetime, that is my choice.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The land of litigation

    When things don't go your way, file a lawsuit. That's the American way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The land of litigation

      You -do- realize that he didn't, er, file a lawsuit, right?

      Perhaps we should rephrase your ill-considered invective to match the truth: "When you believe a company has broken FCC regulations in order to deny you service you have already paid for, file an informal complaint with the FCC requesting that they investigate the matter."

  5. thesykes

    Do AT&T block other video chat software? e.g. Skype? Or, are they specifically blocking only Facetime? If so, is this because Facetime uses more bandwidth than all other IP video software, or just that they see iPhone users as suckers who'll pay anything they are asked for?

  6. g e


    It's not like AT&T kept the facetime additional charges secret. If he didn't read the blurb it's his own fault.

    Or perhaps he just took an ithing and an account just so he could troll them for a possible payday. Like AC says, it's the American Way (tm)(r)(p)(c)

    Or perhaps he's just another OCD apple buyer who had to have an iwotsit regardless of whether the phone or plan carrier contract/plan suited his needs..

    Fail, however you look at it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pillock

      Except that the question isn't whether they kept the charges secret - the question is whether it's legal to charge people as such. Perhaps he was ill-advised in not reading the 10 pages of fine print (which are probably there at least in part to obfuscate policies like this) , but that doesn't have any bearing on the rightness or wrongness of AT&T's behavior.

      If I stand in front of you and say, "I'm going to shoot you now", and you're not paying attention, that doesn't mean I can go ahead and shoot you without moral or legal repercussions.

  7. ukgnome

    Damn - I thought it was just me they were blocking

    because of some anti-ginger agenda, and now I find out that all us red tops needs to do is pay. This is racism impure and simple.

  8. morbid

    I'm surprised people still use AT&T, though it seems people would rather try to have the government force change in business then actually go with one of the decent providers.

    If they're going to pursue something as dumb as this, why don't they do something meaningful.... like have the FTC investigate all the providers for price fixing on SMS messages. For something that required no additional infrastructure... and costs them next to nothing, they sure have been raping people over using it.

  9. James 100

    Too dumb to be a good dumb pipe

    It's a shame: they have been a dumb pipe for many years now, but keep trying to be something more - despite their customers' interests - and screwing up the core dumb pipe function as a result.

    My ISP - mobile or not - is there to provide me with an IP address and bandwidth. Send packets, receive packets. It infuriates me that they waste so much time and effort - which, ultimately, costs their customers - on trying to dress that up and segregate the service artificially: whether the packets are for a specific application, whether they are being consumed on a small device or a large one...

    Ironic, Apple started out greatly weakening the telco's hold on our handsets, but here we are complaining about them still giving the telco the ability to block certain services and applications ... five years ago, AT&T would have been rebranding the handsets themselves and probably deleting Facetime entirely, or modifying it so they could charge by the minute even to use it on wifi!

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