AT&T just put up a lengthy response to the FaceTime controversy it started when it announced that only users of its new, more expensive Mobile Share Plans may use Apple’s feature. In short, AT&T says it is not bound by FCC Net Neutrality laws on FaceTime because it is a pre-installed App and can be disabled to the carrier’s liking.

 The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones.  Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps.  Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services.   AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems. (I won’t name any of them for fear that I will be accused by these same groups of discriminating in favor of those apps.  But just go to your app store on your device and type “video chat.”)  Therefore, there is no net neutrality violation.

If FaceTime was a downloadable app, AT&T would be forced by FCC Net Neutrality laws to allow it to work properly.

By those measures, AT&T could block Google Hangouts on Android phones and Microsoft’s soon to be pre-installed Skype application on Windows 8 too.

Former lawyer Nilay Patel from The Verge had this to say:

AT&T alludes to possible network concerns in the last paragraph of the announcement, but the 3mb/minute lines up with other apps currently in use like Hulu/Netflix/Crackle/Sling/AmazonVideo or any of the downloadable VoIP apps.

If you feel AT&T should rethink this policy, perhaps signing the petition makes sense.

Advocacy group Public Knowledge has this to say:

“By blocking FaceTime for many of its customers, AT&T is violating the FCC’s Open Internet rules. These rules state that mobile providers shall not ‘block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.’ Although carriers are permitted to engage in ‘reasonable network management,’ there is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime, and another not.

“‘Over-the-top’ communications services like FaceTime are a threat to carriers’ revenue, but they should respond by competing with these services and not by engaging in discriminatory behavior.”

Senator Al Franken also says it is the wrong thing to do: