First let me say that I don’t have a law degree, I don’t work for AT&T, and I don’t know what their internal plans are. In fact this article is probably well out of place on this site. But I do develop iPhone applications, and I do know a lot about mobile internet and data connectivity in general. Couple that with the fact that I find net neutrality to be one of the most important issues in the world today, and you get my reason for using my own, tiny little soap box to speak out.

Why I think net neutrality is important

Aside from issues like FaceTime and AT&T, the internet is the worlds source of free(open, not free beer) information and opinion. It’s the new age town hall meeting. Some of the information may be false, some may be nothing more then idiots screaming, but as a U.S. citizen that believes in free speech, everyone should have the freedom to sound like an idiot, and to decide which idiot they want to listen to.

When you mix in things like companies and profits, you get an even more dangerous scenario. Telco providers are some of the worse out there, in my opinion. They constantly come up with new, and artificial ways, for you to have to pay more. That is what AT&T is doing with their FaceTime over Shared Data plans. Now, for the record, I can’t say that their intention is to do so, but I can say that it is certainly the end result.

Net Neutrality in a few words

There is a very complicated “policy” of net neutrality in place today. Personally I feel that it is a bit week, but that is neither here nor there. As simply as I can put it, the idea behind net neutrality is “Data is data and no one should be able to control what data I can receive or transmit, for their own interest.” In other words it’s like freedom of speech for data. Again when adding companies this gets more complicated, and basically becomes a limitation that companies can not block competing products from their networks. For example Brighthouse can’t stop you from getting to the FiOS web page.

Data is data

I am going to explain this as simple as I can. Data is data. When you send data over any network it is converted to 1s and 0s. When you buy a metered data plan, your paying for the right to send so many 1s and 0s. So, for example, if your by a 3 Gigabyte data plan you are buying the ability to send 25,769,803,776 little 1s and 0s. An email may be about 819,200 1s and 0s. A score update to your favorite game center game may be 320 1s and 0s. But there all just 1s and 0s. Video, and voice are, in the case of VOIP and video chat apps like FaceTime, just 1s and 0s.

FaceTime and AT&T

So AT&T has stated that they will only allow FaceTime over cellular data if you have a shared plan. This is restriction of data, based on their own interests. I can’t say what their interests are for certain, but I can say it looks like moving people form unlimited data plans to more expensive data plans, and perhaps limiting network usage. This goes against the idea of net neutrality and in truth against the contracts and agreements (as are understood by most people) already in place. You pay for 25 billion 1s and 0s, why should you have to pay more, to use those same 1s and 0s in a different way?

Less complicated examples

So here are a few examples of things that could be (but currently are not) the same as what AT&T is trying to do with face time.

  • Paying extra on your internet bill to use gmail
  • Paying extra on your Netflix account to watch movies between 8pm and 11pm
  • Paying extra on your internet bill to listen to Pandora

These are all the same thing, as AT&T and FaceTime. Let us also not forget that FaceTime is an Apple service. I don’t know the specifics of any agreements between AT&T and Apple, but I do know that Apple owns FaceTime. So essentially AT&T is charging you extra to use an Apple service/application. If this becomes a trend (which you can say it already has if you look at SMS messages), then the next thing could be restrictions of Siri and only being available on certain accounts.

What to do

Well, the best thing you can do is speak out. Take one or all of the steps below to let others know how you feel.

  • Write the FCC
  • Write your representative
  • Post on Facebook and Twitter
  • Write AT&T and tell them how you feel about the issue.
  • Write your own article on your own site
  • Talk to your friends and family about the issue
  • Move to another provider (dollars speak louder then words to a company)

With any luck

AT&T will back down on the issue and the FCC/Government will devise stronger net neutrality rules. I personally don’t care about face time, I don’t use it. I do care about being able to access what data I want without someone imposing their interests over mine.

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