AT&T today announced that it will enable Apple's FaceTime software for use on its data customers for all of its customers on any type of tiered data plan - not just those with one of the new AT&T Mobile Share plans. Customers will also have to have iOS 6 and an LTE device to use the video calling software. The service will be enabled over the course of the next "eight to ten weeks."
This is a change from the policy that AT&T announced back in August. At the time, the company enabled the use of FaceTime over its data networks - but only for customers who were on AT&T's new, more expensive, Mobile Share data plans. The U.S. wireless carrier with the largest number of iPhone subscribers was holding Apple software hostage, trying to pressure existing customers onto the new shared plans.
AT&T released a response on its Public Policy Blog that was long on explaining how the move was legal. It may have been legal, but it certainly wasn't in the spirit of net neutrality. Policies such as these, which restrict customers from using the data they pay for in whatever way they want, are the reason net neutrality laws are being crafted.
AT&T was fined $700,000 by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday, which may or may not have anything to do with the timing of today's FaceTime announcement. Part of the company's deal with the FCC was a "compliance plan" that included customer notifications, customer representative training, and compliance reports to the FCC.