Groups: AT&T to Be Target of Net Neutrality Complaint

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In what could be the FCC's first formal network neutrality complaint since its new rules became effective a year ago, Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New American Foundation said Tuesday they had informed AT&T of their plan to lodge a complaint against the company in the next several weeks.

The complaint won't be lodged for at least 10 days, since that is the notice the FCC requires companies be given for such complaints, the group pointed out.

They argue that AT&T is blocking the video-conferencing mobile application FaceTime in violation of the FCC's Open Internet Rules. While the FCC did not apply most of its net neutrality rules to wireless, it did apply a no-blocking requirement.

"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," say the groups.

"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 in a statement. "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."

As recently as May, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski had told the Senate that the FCC had not received any complaints in the six months since the Open Internet order went into effect. The rules are currently being challenged in court by Verizon and MetroPCS.

An AT&T spokesperson was not immediately available for comment, but in a blog posting last month, AT&T said that they are wrong. "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," AT&T said. "Providers of mobile broadband Internet access service are subject to two net neutrality requirements: 1) a transparency requirement pursuant to which they must disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of their broadband Internet access services; and 2) a no-blocking requirement under which they are prohibited, subject to reasonable network management, from blocking applications that compete with the provider's voice or video telephony services. AT&T's plans for FaceTime will not violate either requirement."