If you’re unfamiliar with the situation so far, it goes like this: AT&T will block FaceTime over 3G/4G on your iPhone unless you sign up for one of its new data-sharing plans that lets you use multiple devices to draw from a single pool of data.
Gramer, who is deaf, describes FaceTime as “a revolutionary product.” Prior to its inception, a deaf person’s main means of making and receiving phone calls was via a telecommunications relay service. A deaf person would type a message on a phone to an intermediary, who would read the message aloud to its recipient. The recipient would speak a response and the intermediary typed it back to the deaf person.
It worked but it was clunky, still relying on the written word. The deaf person was unable to speak in his native language of American Sign Language. Soon video relay services came along, which was a huge step forward, but this still required the use of special equipment.
FaceTime over 3G changes this. All a person needs is the phone he already has and he can communicate with friends and family around the world, but AT&T aims to complicate things by prying more money out of people’s wallets. AT&T will still let iPhone owners use FaceTime over a Wi-Fi connection, but that doesn’t do you much good if you’re out and about.
As Gramer writes: “The bottom line is that data is data. Whatever we pay for, we should be able to use. AT&T needs to rethink this terribly misguided plan and its impact on the deaf and hard of hearing.”
He’s right. As Steve Kovach wrote when this whole controversy broke out, when you buy data, you should be able to use it however you want. AT&T’s move feels like it’s designed to push customers to its mobile share plans, which can be more expensive for individuals.
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