AT&T officially stopped FaceTime from functioning on their Apple iPhones and then told people that they will support it only if you upgrade your plan.
Ars Technica is an online news service that does investigative reporting, gadget and com[puter product reviews and reviews of all things technical. Nate Anderson recently ran an article “AT&T, Have you No Shame?” explaining how AT&T is blocking Facetime. The strange part of this story is that AT&T blogging had mentioned that all other video conferencing services will work on their network without a problem. Facetime is a service by Apple that allows Apple devices to offer video conferencing to other Apple devices, leveraging their internal chips to provide a better experience than Skype and other services.
As a quick background, AT&T was the only provider to take on Apple’s iPhone when first released. AT&T made a surprising amount of money as a result of offering this relationship. AT&T was not prepared for the demand of the phone use and consequently, most of the people who owned AT&T network iPhones experienced drop outs, lack of connectivity and standard billing fees without apology or real network expansion efforts, Apple, tied to an initial contract of exclusivity, waited for their contract to end to offer their phone through other providers. There was a mass migration of users from AT&T to Verizon and Sprint once the newer networks offered Apple phones. This allowed the people who kept AT&T service and iPhones to get access to the network and have a better experience.
Today, AT&T has an official stance that you can access Facetime with an upgraded plan, but you do not need to do so if you want to use all other forms (APPS) for video conferencing.
Bob Quinn, one of the top AT&T lobbyists (“Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory”) in a company famous for lobbyists, must have drawn the short straw at the office staff meeting this week, because he got a truly unenviable job. Quinn’s task was to explain to the world how AT&T’s plan to keep blocking FaceTime video chats on some data plans but to unblock it on others was a good thing for customers, how AT&T was in “a learning mode,” and—most importantly—why the decision was absolutely, completely legal despite what the unwashed peasants in “public advocacy” work would have you believe.
So Quinn walked down the hall to the closet next to the photocopier and pulled out something reserved for just such an occasion: the company’s sole suit of adamantine armor, fortified against flame attacks by a special concoction distilled from the rage of 10,000 Internet commenters. (We are, admittedly, hypothesizing a bit at this point.) Bold Sir Quinn donned the suit and sallied forth to his desk, where he sharpened his quill pen and churned out a corporate blog post on “enabling” FaceTime for AT&T users.
In it, Quinn pointed out that AT&T’s serfs customers could continue to use FaceTime over WiFi. With iOS 6, they can soon use FaceTime over the cell network, too, but only with certain data plans. On other plans, FaceTime wouldn’t work. The restrictions apply only to FaceTime, however; Quinn even suggests that aggrieved users go out and download any other video chat app from the App Store—and they can run it on any data plan without problems.
Nate goes on to explain that we have a choice as a consumer group and that overall competition is the key to innovation. Luckily other cell phone providers int he USA exist and we can still allow innovation to like FaceTime to be available to others. AT&T has had a problem with building out their mobile network and keeping up with the future – its growth has only caused it to be more bloated with bureaucracy and middle management. No one provider is a Saint, but changing features in plans in the middle of contracts and not giving reciprocity to the subscribers is another example to why competition is important in any field.