Last week, AT&T confirmed plans to restrict FaceTime access over a mobile broadband connection to subscribers of its new Mobile Share data plans only. That move has caused quite the controversy in the public eye, including a petition to block AT&T from restricting the video chat service on iPhone. AT&T has since responded to this “knee jerk reaction,” with AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory Bob Quinn outlining the reasoning and legality of restricting FaceTime on iPhone to its higher tiered data plan customers only:
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.
AT&T adds that it is expanding FaceTime access to its Mobile Share data plan subscribers only to judge the impact that the service will have on its network and overall customer experience. At the same time, however, it could easily be argued that this is simply the latest move by AT&T to increase its profits by disallowing FaceTime access over a cellular data connection to its customers with less expensive data plans. Hopefully customers continue to criticize AT&T for these actions until they take the necessary actions to make FaceTime available over broadband fairly for its entire iPhone customer base.