AT&T will allow more customers to use the FaceTime videochat app on its network, the company said today.
Specifically, AT&T will now allow anyone on a tiered data plan, who also uses an iOS 6 device with LTE -- including the iPhone 5 and some newer iPads -- to access FaceTime over the data network. The company will roll out that shift over the next 8-10 weeks. People who are on unlimited plans still won't be able to use FaceTime on a data network.
While still problematic, the new scheme marks an improvement from AT&T's prior plan for the app. Originally, AT&T said it would only allow subscribers with new shared data plans to use FaceTime on its network. (All users can access FaceTime on WiFi, but WiFi isn't as widely available as the data network.)
In September, the groups Free Press, Public Knowledge and The New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute criticized those restrictions. The groups argued that AT&T's scheme would violate net neutrality rules -- which ban wireless providers from blocking competing apps. The watchdogs put AT&T on notice that they would file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission if the telecom didn't retreat.
Today, the advocates praised AT&T's change of heart, but said the company still must make the app available to all subscribers as soon as possible. "AT&T's course correction is a move in the right direction, but until the company makes FaceTime available to all of its customers it is still in violation of the FCC's rules and the broader principles of net neutrality," Free Press policy director Matt Wood said in a statement.