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Man files FCC complaint over AT&T FaceTime blocking

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A San Francisco man has filed a complaint against AT&T with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the carrier's decision to charge customers extra to use Apple's FaceTime video conferencing on its 3G and 4G networks.

The man, an architect who wishes to remain anonymous, told Business Insider on Wednesday that FaceTime was one of the main reasons he upgraded to an iPhone 5, because he wanted to video chat with his wife and children when he traveled.

When he brought his new iPhone home, however, he soon learned that AT&T requires customers to move up to a more expensive pricing tier if they want to use FaceTime on its mobile network. Even customers on so-called unlimited data plans must pay extra.

"I have paid a premium for the unlimited data plan even though I don't really use that much data, thinking that some day it would be useful to have," he told the paper.

Feeling slighted, he turned to a time-honored American tradition: He complained to the government.

He isn't the first to suggest that the feds might want to look into AT&T's FaceTime pricing policy. In September, three public-interest groups put the carrier on notice that they planned to file a formal complaint with the FCC, citing the agency's net neutrality rules. So far, however, they haven't followed through with their threat.

But although filing a formal net neutrality complaint with the FCC is a complicated legal procedure, our nameless San Franciscan chose a much easier route, by filing an informal complaint using a form on the FCC's website.

Informal complaints can be filed by any individual consumer at no cost, and our unknown architect said he hopes many more AT&T customers will do so.

We here at Reg West wish him and those who join in his protest all the luck in the world. The FCC has yet to make any statement regarding the issue, and there's little evidence to suggest it plans to open an investigation into AT&T's pricing any time soon.

For its part, AT&T has openly scoffed at claims that its policies violate FCC rules, saying, "Those arguments are wrong."

If the FCC won't help, however, disgruntled iPhone 5 owners still have options. First, they can always sign a petition. Second, they can do their FaceTime chatting over Wi-Fi connections, rather than AT&T's mobile network. Prior to iOS 6, FaceTime was a Wi-Fi–only feature, and it still works just fine that way now. ®

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