Mobile

AT&T backtracks on FaceTime blocking, but some customers are still out of luck

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It looks like AT&T’s FaceTime standoff is nearing its conclusion.

While the iOS FaceTime feature was initially only available to AT&T customers with Mobile Share plans, the telecom provider is now loosening the restrictions to include LTE devices on tiered data plans.

In other words, this is good news for owners of the iPhone 5, some iPads, and the iPad Mini, but it’s bad news for those with an iPhone 4, 4S and any non-LTE iPad. (Unsurprisingly, customers with unlimited data plans are out of luck either way.)

Most jarring is that AT&T doesn’t expect the functionality to be available for another eight to 10 weeks. For customers, that’s a long wait for something that should have been available from the beginning.

Much of reason for AT&T’s about-face likely came as a result of legal pressures from public interest groups, which are already pushing AT&T to go further with its plans.

“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 statement.

Elsewhere, AT&T legislation head Jim Cicconi said that AT&T’s initial decision was a result of a basic inability to measure how FaceTime affected network performance.

“It is for this reason that we took a more cautious approach toward the app. To do otherwise might have risked an adverse impact on the services our customers expect – voice quality in particular – if usage of FaceTime exceeded expectations,” he wrote.