Sep. 18, 2012 at 5:56 PM ET
A group of public interest organizations are preparing a complaint against AT&T for violating net neutrality rules by blocking access to a video-conferencing application.
In a letter to AT&T, three groups — Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute — assert that the telecommunications giant is running afoul of Federal Communications Commission regulations by charging a premium for access to FaceTime, an Apple program available on iOS devices. FaceTime is free via Wi-Fi, but with iOS 6, due out this week, it can be used over a cellular carrier's network.
"We respectfully request that AT&T reconsider its behavior and the impact that blocking FaceTime will have on its customers, particularly the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as all who use this application to communicate with family and friends over the Internet," the letter reads.
"Making mobile use of the application available only to those customers who pay for unlimited voice and text messages harms individuals and innovation alike."
Spokesmen for AT&T did not respond to request for comment.
Under the FCC's guidelines, the subject of any complaint must be notified 10 days before a complaint is filed. If the public interest groups cannot convince AT&T to come to a resolution, the complaint will either be heard by the FCC's enforcement bureau or along to an administrative law judge, John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge told TheWrap.
Bergmayer said that unlike Sprint and Verizon, AT&T does not allow iPhone users to access FaceTime over cellular unless they subscribe to one of its "Mobile Sharing" plans. He said that violates open Internet rules that prohibit companies from blocking these types of applications on their mobile networks.
"There's really no factual dispute about what AT&T is doing, we just have to see if they agree their behavior is against the open internet rule," Bergmayer said.
Bergmayer said a resolution could come anywhere between 45 days and several months.
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