Where once the idea of shared data plans was very popular, now it feels like some kind of shackles that are required if you want to use a basic feature of your iPhone or your data-plan-equipped iPad.
Criticism for the new policy included accusations that AT&T were violating net neutrality rules by forcing a plan subscription for 3G FaceTime usage, though in actuality those restrictions only apply to apps that are downloaded and not anything native and preloaded.
AT&T had an official response to the matter:
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.”
This move by AT&T is frustrating to be sure, but shouldn’t come as any surprise. They are in the business of making money and video conferencing solutions like FaceTime and messaging options like iMessage in lieu of text messaging are hurting their bottom line (but please don’t mistake my comment here as sympathy).
It shouldn’t be ignored that FaceTime will use bandwidth and data, of course. As Apple (and other manufacturers) add features to their mobile devices that cause strain on provider networks, our expectations and reliance on these services also increases and adds burden to our providers. While this may seem minimal, it just might be reasonable to expect we have to pay something for these bonuses.