The Feds Look Into Apple’s Google Voice Rejection. Good!

By  |  Friday, July 31, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Uncle SamPeople keep saying that there’s no court of last resort when Apple rejects an iPhone application. Heck, nobody can even demand that Apple explain its actions. But the one guy who can order even Steve Jobs around is Uncle Sam. And the FCC is now looking into Apple’s refusal to release Google’s Google Voice application on the iPhone App Store. It wants to know why Apple rejected the app, what role AT&T played in the decision, and what the situation has been with other Google apps.

I know I’d like to use the Google Voice app on my iPhone. I know that I believe Apple’s app approval process should be less restrictive and more open. But I’m not a lawyer–and I don’t know whether Apple’s actions to date violate any laws or FCC regulations. Neither does the FCC presumably, which is why it’s written letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google to collect information.

I’m enough of a libertarian that I don’t reflexively want the federal government deciding how Apple should run its application store. But I’m also a believer in competition–and so I think it’s important that we know if AT&T was involved in Google Voice’s rejection, and if so, if the FCC considers that to be acceptable behavior. Telecommunications remains a rather heavily-regulated industry for a reason, after all.

Of course, the happiest possible outcome from all this is obvious: Apple could save itself some potential legal headaches by approving the Google Voice application without being forced to do so. Is there an iPhone owner on the planet who would be displeased with that outcome?

[UPDATE: TechCrunch has published copies of the FCC's letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google.]

 
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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Steven Fisher Says:

    That’s not the happiest possible outcome. The happiest possible outcome is this investigation goes on for a while, and Apple if forced to fix it’s policies: Not just for Google Voice, but in general.

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Good point that the happiest outcome is if Apple changes its policies, period. I’d still be most pleased if it did by choice, though–and I’m still optimistic enough to believe that one way or another, it’s going to decide that it’s in everyone’s best interest, including its own, to do so.

    –Harry

  3. Jeff Says:

    Who forces you guys to buy an iPhone?
    If you don’t like Apple’s or AT&T restrictive polices get a new phone.

  4. Tom Says:

    Dear Gawd — just what we don’t need. The US Govt coming to mess with Apple, the only truly innovative large technology company left in this country.

    Look– Just DON’T BUY AN iPHONE! Buy a Nokia or a Moto or BBerry or whatever else kind of “smart phone” you want. Nobody’s making you buy an iPhone, so if you don’t like the restrictions of the App Store, buy something else. bokay?

    Next they’ll start the MSFT and DELL bailout funds with our taxpayer money, modeled after Amtrak, the US Postal Service, Govt Motors, …. Jeesh.

  5. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    I don’t think they can force apple to allow Google Voice or any app on the Appstore, but the Feds COULD stop AT&T’s (and other carriers’s) from blocking VoIP on their network, since that’s in violation of Net Neutrality, something the Obama administration promised to take a strong stance on.

  6. William Rios Says:

    Don’t know much about His…STORY..
    Don’t know much about Tele… PHONY..
    Don’t know much about Google too…
    Don’t know much about the APPs I use…
    But I do know that I must use…
    And I do know if you use it too…
    What a Wonderful World this could be !?

    La,la,la,la…. Got Google , why?
    La,la,la,la………Works great on my ‘ i ‘

    (:o) I just couldn’t help it, this Google Voice App ‘rocks’)

  7. joecab Says:

    Yeah but the US would be coming after them to make them more open. It wouldn’t be forcing them to do something; it’d be forcing them to NOT stifle something.

    I think having the FCC involved is great. Apple WANTS to be able to offer apps like Google Voice (especially if they’re already on other devices — WTF?) and to not have exclusivity deals, but it’s doubtful they could have arranged such a sweet arrangement with AT&T otherwise. If the FCC came down, Apple could just say “well, we tried!” and secretly chuckle that things worked out in their favor.

    A deep, deep chuckle. Bwahaha.

  8. Level1Alt Says:

    Doesn’t he government has better things to do? Like investigate baseball steroids or give the rich bailouts?

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