Wow. Today, the Federal Communications Commission launched a formal inquiry over Apple's removal of the Google Voice application from the iPhone Apps Store. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Apple and Google looking for answers on the matter.According to the Wall Street Journal, the letters were sent today, and question why the Google Voice application was pulled from the iPhone Apps Store.
The Google Voice mobile application ties into Google's Internet-based phone service that allows people to make and receive phone calls from a number other than the one registered to the iPhone.
The letters sent to AT&T specifically asks if AT&T was consulted about the removal of the application, and if so, what AT&T said to Apple.
Google was also questioned, but about the nature of the application itself and whether or not Apple yanked other Google Apps from the iPhone Apps Store.
Apparently the inquiry is being folded into the FCC's larger investigation of the exclusive distribution agreements that exist between cell phone manufacturers and network operators.
The FCC wants answers. So, too, does a lot of the public. This is going to get interesting.
Here's what the FCC sent Google:
Recent press reports indicate that Apple has declined to approve the Google Voice application for the iPhone and has removed related (and previously approved) third-party applications from the iPhone App Store. In light of pending FCC proceedings regarding wireless open access (RM-11361) and handset exclusivity (RM-11497), we are interested in a more complete understanding of this situation.Here's what it sent AT&T:
To that end, please provide answers to the following questions by close of business on Friday, August 21, 2009.
- Please provide a description of the proposed Google Voice application for iPhone. What are the key features, and how does it operate (over a voice or data network, etc.)?
- What explanation was given (if any) for Apple's rejection of the Google Voice application (and for any other Google applications for iPhone that have been rejected, such as Google Latitude)? Please describe any communications between Google and AT&T or Apple on this topic and a summary of any meetings or discussion.
- Has Apple approved any Google applications for the Apple App Store? If so, what services do they provide, and, in Google's opinion, are they similar to any Apple/AT&T-provided applications?
- Does Google have any other proposed applications pending with Apple, and if so, what services do they provide?
- Are there other mechanisms by which an iPhone user will be able to access either some or all of the features of Google Voice? If so, please explain how and to what extent iPhone users can utilize Google Voice despite the fact that it is not available through Apple's App Store.
- Please provide a description of the standards for considering and approving applications with respect to Google's Android platform. What is the approval process for such applications (timing, reasons for rejection, appeal process, etc.)? What is the percentage of applications that are rejected? What are the major reasons for rejecting an application?
Last, here's what the FCC wants to know from Apple:
- What role, if any, did AT&T play in Apple's consideration of the Google Voice and related applications? What role, if any, does AT&T play in consideration of iPhone applications generally? What roles are specified in the contractual provisions between Apple and AT&T (or in any non-contractual understanding between the companies) regarding the consideration of particular iPhone applications?
- Did Apple consult with AT&T in the process of deciding to reject the Google Voice application? If so, please describe any communications between AT&T and Apple or Google on this topic, including the parties involved and a summary of any meetings or discussions.
- Please explain AT&T's understanding of any differences between the Google Voice iPhone application and any Voice over Internet Protocol applications that are currently used on the AT&T network, either via the iPhone or via handsets other than the iPhone.
- To AT&T's knowledge, what other applications have been rejected for use on the iPhone? Which of these applications were designed to operate on AT&T's 3G network? What was AT&T's role in considering whether such applications would be approved or rejected?
- Please detail any conditions included in AT&T's agreements or contracts with Apple for the iPhone related to the certification of applications or any particular application's ability to use AT&T's 3G network.
- Are there any terms in AT&T's customer agreements that limit customer usage of certain third-party applications? If so, please indicate how consumers are informed of such limitations and whether such limitations are posted on the iTunes website as well. In general, what is AT&T's role in certifying applications on devices that run over AT&T's 3G network? What, if any, applications require AT&T's approval to be added to a device? Are there any differences between AT&T's treatment of the iPhone and other devices used on its 3G network?
- Please list the services/applications that AT&T provides for the iPhone, and whether there any similar, competing iPhone applications offered by other providers in Apple's App Store.
- Do any devices that operate on AT&T's network allow use of the Google Voice application? Do any devices that operate on AT&T's network allow use of other applications that have been rejected for the iPhone?
- Please explain whether, on AT&T's network, consumers' access to and usage of Google Voice is disabled on the iPhone but permitted on other handsets, including Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices.
- Why did Apple reject the Google Voice application for iPhone and remove related third-party applications from its App Store? In addition to Google Voice, which related third-party applications were removed or have been rejected? Please provide the specific name of each application and the contact information for the developer.
- Did Apple act alone, or in consultation with AT&T, in deciding to reject the Google Voice application and related applications? If the latter, please describe the communications between Apple and AT&T in connection with the decision to reject Google Voice. Are there any contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T that affected Apple's decision in this matter?
- Does AT&T have any role in the approval of iPhone applications generally (or in certain cases)? If so, under what circumstances, and what role does it play? What roles are specified in the contractual provisions between Apple and AT&T (or any non-contractual understandings) regarding the consideration of particular iPhone applications?
- Please explain any differences between the Google Voice iPhone application and any Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications that Apple has approved for the iPhone. Are any of the approved VoIP applications allowed to operate on AT&T's 3G network?
- What other applications have been rejected for use on the iPhone and for what reasons? Is there a list of prohibited applications or of categories of applications that is provided to potential vendors/developers? If so, is this posted on the iTunes website or otherwise disclosed to consumers?
- What are the standards for considering and approving iPhone applications? What is the approval process for such applications (timing, reasons for rejection, appeal process, etc.)? What is the percentage of applications that are rejected? What are the major reasons for rejecting an application?