NEW YORK, Sept 18 Three U.S. public interest
groups plan to file a formal complaint accusing AT&T Inc
of violating U.S. Internet rules if the wireless service
provider goes ahead with a plan to limit use of Apple Inc's
FaceTime application to certain customers.
The groups -- Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New
America Foundation's Open Technology Institute -- gave AT&T
notice in a letter on Tuesday that they plan to file a formal
complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, unless the
No. 2 U.S. mobile provider changes its policy.
Both AT&T and the FCC declined to comment on the letter.
Apple's FaceTime video conferencing application will work on
cellular networks after the iPhone 5 hits store shelves this
week. Until now, the service was only useable over Wi-Fi short
range wireless connections, which are often free to use but have
a limited coverage range.
AT&T's iPhone 5 customers will still be able to use the
service without charge on Wi-Fi networks.
But the advocacy groups are complaining because AT&T is only
allowing subscribers to its shared data plans, which include its
highest rates for data, to use FaceTime on its cellular network.
In comparison, AT&T's bigger rival Verizon Wireless
says all of its data customers can use FaceTime. Use of
the service would be counted against their monthly data
allowance rather than their voice minutes allowance.
The advocacy groups say AT&T is breaking FCC rules as they
believe that it should give all customers who pay for its mobile
Internet service the option to use any Internet application they
want to use regardless of which data plan they buy.
"When you sign up to use the Internet, you're allowed to use
the Internet," said Free Press legislative director Joel Kelsey.
He noted that some consumers may want to use FaceTime to
talk without having to dip into their monthly allowance for
Sarah Morris, policy counsel for the New America
Foundation's Open Technology Institute said the AT&T decision
was a "direct contradiction" of FCC rules.
"For those rules to actually protect consumers and allow
them to choose the services they use, the Commission must act
quickly in reviewing complaints before it," Morris said.
Kelsey said the group sent a letter to AT&T's General
Counsel Wayne Watts, as it is required to give the company 10
days notice before it files the official complaint.