"Although carriers are permitted to engage in 'reasonable network management,' there is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime, and another not," said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, in a statement. "'Over-the-top' communications services like FaceTime are a threat to carriers' revenue, but they should respond by competing with these services and not by engaging in discriminatory behavior."
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood argued that customers will have to buy a more expensive data plan "with extra voice minutes and texts they'll never use thrown in" just to use FaceTime on AT&T's mobile network.
"Blocking mobile FaceTime access for much of its user base may be a win for AT&T but it's a losing proposition for the rest of us," Wood said. "The FCC's rules prohibit such blatantly anti-competitive conduct by wireless companies."
An AT&T spokesman rejected the groups' claims about its plans violating FCC rules, saying the company is expanding the availability of the video chat app for its customers.
"FaceTime is available to all of our customers today over Wi-Fi and we're now expanding its availability even further as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans," the spokesman said.
AT&T's new Mobile Share service plan, which lets subscribers share data across devices and tablets, will launch later this month. There had been earlier speculation that AT&T planned to charge a separate fee for people to use FaceTime over its cellular network.
Sprint, meanwhile, told the Wall Street Journal that said it doesn't have plans to charge consumers more to use FaceTime on its mobile network.