Why We Hate Carriers (AT&T Edition)

AT&T logo

Watching folks try to untangle themselves from messes of their own making is often painful. No, I’m not talking about Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, but AT&T and the trouble it has made for itself by restricting the use of Apple’s FaceTime on its wireless network.  AT&T’s latest effort, a posting by its top regulatory official, Bob Quinn on the AT&T Public Policy Blog, only makes things worse.

AT&T had prohibited FaceTime on its network since Apple introduced the app, allowing its use from AT&T iPhones and iPads only over Wi-Fi. It recently announced that it would allow FaceTime use for customers of its new Mobile Share plans, but not others. Presumably, the intention is to drive customers toward the Mobile Share plans. Or something. It makes no sense from any technical perspective since all the customers are using the same network.

The blog post, a nice piece of sophistry, is dedicated to explaining why the policy does not violate the Federal communications Commission’s network neutrality guidelines. The crux of the argument is that FaceTimes is a “preloaded” app and “the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps.” Meanwhile, Quinn notes, customers are free to download and use other video chat apps. If this makes sense to you, you are living on a different planet than I am.

The question of whether the AT&T rules violate FCC guidelines isn’t very important. For one thing, there’s a better than even chance the guidelines won’t survive a legal challenge. The bigger issue is that the AT&T policy is a badly conceived, anti-customer business practice.

AT&T meters customers’ wireless broadband use, effectively charging by the byte. If customers choose to use up their monthly allotment in FaceTime chats, what business is it of AT&T? It’s their data, to use as they please. In fact, the company ought to be happy because the use of a bandwidth-gobbling app like FaceTime is likely to push customers into overages, producing more revenue.

Another weirdness about the post is that it suggests that after five years of selling iPhones, AT&T still has no idea of how this business works. There are no preloaded apps on iPhones, not in the sense of the often junky applications carriers used to pile onto their phones (and still do on some Android models.) The software load of the iPhone is completely controlled by Apple and FaceTime is a core feature of iOS. The statement, “Although the rules don’t require it, some preloaded apps are available without charge on phones sold by AT&T, including FaceTime, but subject to some reasonable restrictions” comes off as nonsense when applied to the iPhone.

Staying in Contact with this Generation of College Students

Lindsay Pund is a junior studying English and Business at Whitworth University. She is completing several writing assignments for a class and was given the topic by the Tech.pinions columnists of how college students stay in touch with friends and family while away at school.

For the majority of college students, college is the first time they are away from home for an extended period of time. Regardless of how far a student goes for school, be it in the next city, state, or country, the question of communication is a common subject. Once it is established how often communication is to be expected, either with family or friends from home, the discussion of which mode of communication will best serve the purpose begins. When students went off to college a few decades ago, they had significantly fewer choices than those at hand for the current generation of college students.

In the lives of college students today, the varieties of communication are virtually limitless. While snail mail is still an option and care packages are always welcomed, there are many other ways to keep in touch in this evolving digital age.

Cell phones are a staple form of communication because they serve the dual purpose of actually making phone calls as well as offering an outlet for silent interaction through texting. While talking to a variety of students, many said that their phone is their main mode of communication with family. Junior Cameron Williams said, “I mostly use my phone to talk to my parents and I use texting to quickly communicate with friends on campus.”

Many students I talked to agreed that they use talking on their cell phones primarily for communicating with their parents. When asked what is used to keep in touch with friends from back home, everyone answered, “Facebook.” Facebook is an efficient tool to stay in contact with friends because it allows for easy access to current information. In receiving feedback regarding Facebook habits, I found it interesting that most people used Facebook to share information and see updates from their friends, rather than actually communicating in way of a conversation.

Another online venue to address a wide audience is the option of blogging. Some students choose to have blogs where they write about what they are learning in classes, doing while hanging out with friends, and particular interests. Blogs are uniquely effective for communication in that they allow students the freedom of staying in touch when it works with their schedule as well as providing an opportunity for those who want to know more about their life away from home to access the information without having hour long phone conversations. While blogging is an option for communication, it is not yet common among students.

An additional mode of communication available to this generation of college students is video chatting. While Skype is currently the most well known, there are other video chat software options available, such as ooVoo. In talking with students about their use of video chatting, many replied that it is not their preferred mode of communication, and when they do use it, it is most often with high school friends at different colleges, as opposed to their family. I believe the main reason for this being the case is that video chatting requires both parties to be in front of a computer and is a larger commitment compared to a quick phone call while walking across campus.

As a college student, I find myself able to identify with the majority of these answers. While I participate in the occasional blog post and Skype conversation, the majority of my communication happens through my cell phone. For me, this is true because my cell phone is always with me and creates an avenue for quick and easy access to anyone I may need to reach.

While looking into possible improvements for communication choices for college students, I found most people to be happy with the options already at hand. The exceptions to this opinion took form in the desire for improvements within already existing technology. For freshman Phil Moore, he said he is “looking forward to the day when there is higher definition for video chatting,” while also acknowledging that it is only a matter of time before this becomes a reality. Sophomore Graeme Lauer added that he would like to see HeyTell (a smartphone app that uses voice recording to text) become more common, as he believes this would be the best of both worlds between phone calls and texting. Lauer said he could see himself using this application to communicate with his family and friends from home as well as his friends at school. And finally, Anna Simpkins commented, “it would be nice if all of my friends had an iPhone, that way I could make better use of FactTime when I am on the go.”

For busy college students, quick and efficient communication is essential. With the evolution of technology, it is challenging to predict what will replace the current modes of communication. But one thing is for certain: nothing will ever be able to replace care packages from home.