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AT&T Will Expand FaceTime App to More Plans

AT&T said Thursday it has decided to make Apple's FaceTime application available on all its service tiers with LTE devices, but public activist groups who had threatened to file a network neutrality complaint unless it opened the app is not yet ready to strike its flags.

AT&T had taken heat for what critics had said was its "blocking" of the application to other users, but in a blog posting announcing the change in policy, AT&T D.C. exec Jim Cicconi said that the company was instead being cautious given that it has far more iPhone users [it once had an exclusive deal with Apple] than other carriers, so that new Apple services could put a strain on the network and the quality of voice service had AT&T not taken the cautious approach and confined the app to its Mobile Share plan and wi fi.

But acknowledging the questions and concerns raised, Cicconi said starting Thursday it would start adding other billing plans over the next 8-10 weeks, and even more after it assesses the impact on the network over the next few months.

"I applaud AT&T's announcement to commit to open service beyond its Mobile Share plan," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee. "This is a victory for consumers and for those who know a free and open Internet is vital to sustaining our rapidly expanding mobile technology market."

Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation had notified AT&T of their intent to file the FCC complaint, which would have been one of the first, if not the first, under the FCC's open access order. They signaled they would still file the complaint unless the app is made available to all AT&T customers "in a timely manner."

"AT&T's course correction is a move in the right direction," said Free Press policy director Matt Wood in a statement, "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."

The groups argue that AT&T has been 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," they said in September when threatening to file the complaint.