After AT&T revealed to us that it was planning to block FaceTime over cellular for customers not on its pricy Mobile Share plans, an attorney at advocacy group Public Knowledge suggested the carrier’s decision violated the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules and warranted an investigation. Today, we get word (via from GigaOM) that Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, and Free Press are planning to file a complaint with the FCC:

On Tuesday, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute notified AT&T of their intent to file a formal complaint against the company. In the complaint, the three organizations will assert that AT&T is violating Net Neutrality by blocking the popular video-conferencing application FaceTime.

The groups will jointly file a complaint with the agency in the coming weeks. Today’s release provides the necessary 10 days notice of intent to file required by the FCC’s Open Internet rules. As for what will be included in the complaint: according to a press release from Free Press, “under the Open Internet rules the FCC passed in 2010, AT&T cannot block apps that compete with the company’s traditional voice-calling service.”

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said, “It’s particularly outrageous that AT&T is requiring this for iPad users, given that this device isn’t even capable of making voice calls. AT&T’s actions are incredibly harmful to all of its customers, including the deaf, immigrant families and others with relatives overseas, who depend on mobile video apps to communicate with friends and family.”

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We already received AT&T’s initial response to the controversy last month:

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.

Free Press also has a petition you can sign.

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Public Interest Groups to File Net Neutrality Complaint Against AT&T for Blocking FaceTime on iPhones and iPads

September 18, 2012
Contact Info:

Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 ext. 35

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute notified AT&T of their intent to file a formal complaint against the company. In the complaint, the three organizations will assert that AT&T is violating Net Neutrality by blocking the popular video-conferencing application FaceTime. The groups will file the complaint with the Federal Communications Commission in the coming weeks. Under the agency’s Open Internet rules, which prohibit companies from blocking such applications on their mobile networks, anyone filing a formal complaint must give at least 10 days’ notice of their intent to file.

The complaint follows the release of Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 6, which enables customers to use FaceTime over mobile networks. Previously, FaceTime use was limited to Wi-Fi  connections. AT&T has indicated that it will block customers from using FaceTime via mobile devices unless they subscribe to one of its new “Mobile Share” plans.

“AT&T’s decision to block FaceTime unless a customer pays for voice and text minutes she doesn’t need is a clear violation of the FCC’s Open Internet rules,” said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. “It’s particularly outrageous that AT&T is requiring this for iPad users, given that this device isn’t even capable of making voice calls. AT&T’s actions are incredibly harmful to all of its customers, including the deaf, immigrant families and others with relatives overseas, who depend on mobile video apps to communicate with friends and family.”

Under the Open Internet rules the FCC passed in 2010, AT&T cannot block apps that compete with the company’s traditional voice-calling service.

“By blocking FaceTime, AT&T is harming its users and holding back mobile innovation,” said Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer. “What’s more, its behavior is illegal. When the FCC adopted its Open Internet rules, it guaranteed that mobile users would be protected from such behavior. Public Knowledge intends to follow the process the FCC established to make sure AT&T follows the law.”

The groups urged the Commission to stop AT&T’s actions.

“AT&T’s decision to block mobile FaceTime on many data plans is a direct contradiction of the Commission’s Open Internet rules for mobile providers,” said Sarah Morris, policy counsel for the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. “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.”

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