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Friday, January 18, 2013

AT&T Allows FaceTime for Limited Data Users. What About Unlimited

AT&T said on Wednesday that it would allow more of its iPhone customers to use Apple’s videoconferencing app, FaceTime, over its cellular network. But customers with unlimited data plans are still left out.

AT&T published a blog post that said it was letting customers with its tiered, limited data plans use FaceTime over the network. Previously, it had reserved this privilege for customers who subscribed to its newer shared data plans.

What about people who have unlimited data plans that they signed up for while they were still being offered A few months ago, AT&T said it anticipated opening the service to those on “other billing plans in the near future,” which would imply unlimited data customers. But on Wednesday, the company wasn’t firm about that prospect, saying it was still assessing the impact that FaceTime has on its nework.

“We will continue to evaluate usage, but I can’t speculate on the future,” said Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman.

Verizon Wireless has had no issue with allowing FaceTime video calls on its network. Customers of its unlimited and shared data plans have been able to use FaceTime over cellular for months now, according to Brenda Raney, a Verizon spokeswoman.

Nonprofit groups have threatened to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against AT&T for limiting how FaceTime can be used over its network. They claim that it is a violation of the F.C.C’s net neutrality rules, which say that mobile providers may not block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.

Free Press, one of the nonprofit groups criticizing AT&T, said the carrier’s latest move was a good step but still not enough.

“As we’ve made clear all along, the company! has no right to block the application in the first place,” said Matt Wood, policy director of Free Press, in a statement. “Until AT&T makes FaceTime available to all of its customers, it is still in violation of the law and the broader principles of Net Neutrality. We remain ready to bring our complaint unless AT&T finishes the job and stops blocking this application altogether.”