Net-Neutrality Complaint Targets AT&T

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WASHINGTON — It took a year, and the target is not a cable operator, but it looks like the Federal Communications Commission is finally going to get its first networkneutrality complaint — against AT&T — under the FCC rules that went into effect last fall.

The rules have been challenged in court by Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS.

So, although some public interest groups said at the time that most of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules did not apply to wireless service, the first court challenge came from wireless companies and, now, the first FCC complaint could be about a wireless company.

That complaint has yet to be filed, but Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New American Foundation last week said they had informed AT&T they plan to lodge the complaint in the next several weeks; they are required to give AT&T at least 10 days’ notice, according to the FCC’s rules.

The public interest groups argue that AT&T is blocking the mobile video-conferencing 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 discrimination prohibition. “Under the Open Internet rules the FCC passed in 2010, AT&T cannot block apps that compete with the company’s traditional voicecalling service,” the groups said.

“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,” Free Press policy director Matt Wood said last week.

An AT&T spokesperson did not return a request for comment, but in a blog posting, the telco said the groups 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.