AT&T confesses: its network couldn't handle unchecked FaceTime over cellular

Well, at least no one can blame AT&T for dodging the core issue any longer. After watching Verizon Wireless snag satisfaction crown after satisfaction crown from AT&T over the years, it seems that the latter is finally using a highly defensive blog post on the issue of FaceTime over cellular in order to cop to what we've all known: AT&T's network is in no shape to handle the glut of devices currently running on it. After being taken by storm in 2007 with the iPhone, AT&T has been racing to right the supply / demand curve, and it came to a head once more last week when the operator announced that only Mobile Share users would be able to use FaceTime over its 3G / 4G airwaves once iOS 6 hit. Naturally, pundits were quick to slam the company for implementing a policy that nudges existing users with grandfathered unlimited data plans to slide up to a plan that's potentially less awesome, but a lengthy letter on AT&T's Public Policy Blog lays out the real reason.

The company makes clear that the decision to limit FaceTime over cellular to Mobile Share customers does not violate the FCC's net neutrality rules -- after all, it's being decidedly transparent about the frowned-upon choice -- nor does it cross the line on any "blocking" issues. Its argument is simple: it's not blocking you from using any video chat application you want, but it is exercising its right to manage the doors through which all chat applications can and can't be used. The money quote is here: "We are broadening our customers' ability to use the preloaded version of FaceTime but limiting it in this manner to our newly developed AT&T Mobile Share data plans out of an overriding concern for the impact this expansion may have on our network and the overall customer experience." Despite our scorn, we're halfway glad the policy is in place -- after all, how would you feel if you couldn't load a vital email because everyone else on the block was chatting with their mum about chimera cats on FaceTime? Rock, meet hard place.