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Groups Take AT&T App-Blocking Complaint to FCC Groups Take AT&T App-Blocking Complaint to FCC

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Tech / FCC

Groups Take AT&T App-Blocking Complaint to FCC

September 18, 2012

Three advocacy groups on Tuesday said they plan to file a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission accusing AT&T of violating network-neutrality rules by restricting access to a video-chat app.

Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, say that AT&T is violating the FCC's net-neutrality rules, which govern anticompetitive behavior by providers.

The complaint stems from an announcement in August in which AT&T said it would require customers who want to use the video-chat app FaceTime to buy upgraded service plans. On Apple's iPhones, FaceTime can be used to make calls without using a carriers voice service.

Restricting access to that app is a violation of the net-neutrality rules, which prohibit companies from blocking apps that may compete with a carrier's own services.

"By blocking FaceTime, AT&T is harming its users and holding back mobile innovation," Public Knowledge attorney John Bergmayer said in a statement. "What's more, its behavior is illegal."

In a statement released in August, however, AT&T said that FaceTime can still be used over WiFi connections and insisted the changes are a reasonable measure needed to prevent its network from becoming overloaded.

"In another knee-jerk reaction, some groups have rushed to judgment and claimed that AT&T's plans will violate the FCC's net-neutrality rules. Those arguments are wrong," AT&T's Bob Quinn wrote.

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