AT&T has responded to a good bit of hubbub over its decision to limit FaceTime over its network in select instances. In a nutshell, AT&T said its management of FaceTime usage over its mobile broadband network isn't a net neutrality issue.
Although I understand that some folks are dying to use FaceTime over AT&T's mobile broadband network, the reality (Net neutrality or otherwise) is that the flap is overblown.
In a blog post, AT&T's public policy chief Bob Quinn said the complaints by groups like Public Knowledge are overblown. Quinn said:
Although the rules don’t require it, some preloaded apps are available without charge on phones sold by AT&T, including FaceTime, but subject to some reasonable restrictions. To date, all of the preloaded video chat applications on the phones we sell, including FaceTime, have been limited to Wi-Fi. 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.
OK fine. In summary, AT&T will allow FaceTime to be used over its 4G network and on shared data plans. AT&T will monitor FaceTime usage largely to ensure its network doesn't crumble.
Needless to say, AT&T's response has caused some angst among tech's chattering class. Here's the reality:
- FaceTime usage over AT&T's mobile network will be a non-starter once you get your first bill and burn through your data caps.
- AT&T wants you to use FaceTime so it can charge you more for data.
- The company has a right to ensure its network doesn't unravel completely as long as it’s transparent about it.
In the end, I'm willing to bet that most FaceTime usage will be over Wi-Fi anyway simply due to personal cost.