The iPhone, Net Neutrality and the FCC

AT&T’s (T) Picturephone, shown at the 1964 World’s Fair, was a huge flop. Apple’s (AAPL) new iPhone 4, announced this week, has a front-facing camera for video chats. It might succeed, except that AT&T isn’t providing enough bandwidth capacity.

First, the company won’t allow two-way video to work over its data network. Second, AT&T just made bandwidth-intensive video expensive by dropping iPhone and iPad’s $30 per month unlimited data plans and replacing them with a two-tiered plan of $15 a month for under 200 megabyte usage or $25 for two gigs. Not that I have a problem with AT&T charging me or the two percent of its customers who are heavy data users. I can always sign up with a competitor. Oh, wait. There are none. AT&T has an exclusive contract with Apple.

AT&T can easily build out enough capacity to handle heavy data users. But it may be playing a game of chess with the FCC over its attempt to impose “network neutrality” rules. The FCC (plus Google and friends) wants all users to have free rein to do what they want on the Internet and smart phones. AT&T just wants users to pay for excess bandwidth.

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