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AT&T to charge iPhone users to use Facetime over 3g

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Facetime is a cool app on the iphone that lets you have a video phone call with another person who also has the app, either on their phone, ipad, or I believe computer.  It's quite cool.

Well, the latest is that AT&T may be planning on charging its iphone customers an extra fee is they use Facetime on AT&T's network. Why?  Because, as the vulgar joke goes, they can.

AT&T, along with Verizon, already gouges Americans, charging them an exorbitant price to use the iphone as compared to what you pay when using other non-iphone phones that seem to work equally well.  (I'd been an AT&T customer for 11 years, including with the iPhone from the beginning, and only recently switched to Verizon because AT&T's coverage is a disaster in the Chicago suburbs - Verizon while not perfect in that locale, at least works.)

I'd written in May about the cost of an iphone plan in France as compared to the price in the states.  I have a better plan here in France for nearly 20 euros a month (25 bucks) than I have in the states with Verizon for $90 a month (same price with AT&T).  And that's the "cheap" plan I have in the states.

But, not happy with simply charging Americans nearly four times what you'd pay in Paris for an iphone plan with MORE coverage, AT&T now wants to charge people who use Facetime.

Why?  I'm sure because AT&T claims that it fears that people will use Facetime instead of making calls on AT&T. And that, my friends, is a bunch of bull.

1. Smartphones are already far more than telephones.  There's a reason I pay $90 a month, and it's not for phone service or I'd dump both AT&T and Verizon.  I want a phone that can surf the web well.  I don't ever use all of my phone minutes in any given month because that's not the main thing my phone does for me anymore.  So were I to shave my phone usage by using Facetime, I'd still be paying the exact same monthly fee for the same monthly number of phone minutes (450, I believe) - so AT&T wouldn't be losing a dime.

2. It's doubtful that Facetime will cut into real phone traffic.  Kids today text, they don't make phone calls.  And adults aren't going to start making significant numbers of video calls any time soon (I tried to get my mom to skype with me and she said she didn't want to because then she'd have to get dressed up).

3. AT&T's Internet bandwidth would get bogged down, they may claim.  Well that's their problem.  AT&T, and Verizon, promise you a couple of gigs or so of bandwidth a month - nay, they didn't just promise, they SOLD ME 2 gigs a month. It should matter to them HOW you spend you Internet time, all that matters if that they give us 2 gigs a month and we can use it as we please.  They have no right to charge me for spending my time online doing one thing versus another - that is the essence of the Net Neutrality argument, stopping companies from regulating what you can and can't do online simply because they think they can make more money by forcing you to do something else.

Now, if AT&T wants to claim that, sure, they SOLD me 2 gigs a month, but they don't really HAVE 2 gigs a month because they never thought I'd actually USE 2 gigs a month, well, then we have a little fraud claim to file, don't we.  Not to mention, how is charging, say, 5 bucks a month going to change the bandwidth usage of Facetime?

This is typical of the shoddy customer service Americans get from a lot of our companies, especially telecommunications.   Chris has written before about the absurdly expensive cable TV bills we all pay in the states - in Europe, 30 euros ($38) a month will get you cable TV, super-fast cable Internet, and phone service with free calls in country and free calls to dozens of countries worldwide.  In the states we pay, what, for just (slower) Internet and TV - $150 a month, $180?

We are being cheated, folks.  And most people, while sensing in their gut that something's unfair, have no idea what it's like in the rest of the developed world.

As with the outrageous prices Americans are charged for prescriptions drugs, these companies cheat us on a daily basis because they can.

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