FCC expands its investigation, now includes Google Voice application

It looks as though the United States Federal Communication Commission has opened an investigation into the rejection of the Google Voice application within the iTunes Store.

The FCC has already sent off a letter to each of the following: AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs, Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Government Affairs, and Google’s Washington Telecom and Media Counsel.

Now, what most people would gloss over, and what I immediately noticed is that each of these addresses is within Washington, DC. But that is a whole other rant.

The information that the FCC is requesting of AT&T is:

1. What role AT&T played in the decision, if any, to remove the Google Voice application, along with similar third party applications.

2. Did AT&T Consult with Apple at all about the rejection.

3. AT&T’s official understanding of the difference between Google Voice and any other Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) applications.

4. AT&T’s knowledge of which other applications have been rejected. And what was AT&T’s role in the rejection or approval of their application.

5. AT&T’s and Apple’s agreements related to the rejection or approval of applications that go over AT&T’s 3G network.

6. (My Favorite) Are there any terms in AT&T’s customer agreements that limit customer usage of certain third-party applications? If so, how are they informed.

7. 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.

8. “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?” (Yes, they do, Blackberry allows it.)

9. (And Similarly) “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.”

Ouch, that’s gonna hurt AT&T. Now onto Apple’s Letter.

1. “Why did Apple reject the Google Voice application for iPhone and remove related third-party applications from its App Store?”. The FCC also wants other removed and rejected applications, and the contact information of the developers. (This is gonna be a good one).

2. “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. ” Oops..

3. Does AT&T have any role in the approval of iPhone applications generally (or in certain cases)?

4. 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. (Skype is allowed and it’s allowed over 3G, just not for calls).

5. “What other applications have been rejected for use on the iPhone and for what reasons? Is there a list…” Haha, that’s a good one…

6. “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?” Oh, this is also gonna be a good one…

Maybe we will now get some answers from Apple… maybe, but that’ll be discussed in a bit. Onto Google

1. “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.)?”

2. “What explanation was given (if any) for Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice application…”. My guess, none.

3. “Has Apple approved any Google applications for the Apple App Store?” Yes, the Google Mobile application.

4. “Does Google have any other proposed applications pending with Apple, and if so, what services do they provide?” I don’t know if we’ll hear about this one.

5. ” Are there other mechanisms by which an iPhone user will be able to access either some or all of the features of Google Voice?”

6. “ease 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?”

Now, we may or may not see any or all of these because of the ‘Request for Confidential Treatment’ clause that is at the bottom of each of these letters.

All of this is an extension to the two other investigations that the FCC is looking into. These are “wireless open access (RM-11361) and handset exclusivity (RM-11497)”. I would hope that the FCC has enough power to rule that ALL handsets should be made available on ALL networks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that AT&T should not carry the iPhone. I believe as though they should be able to, and they should have the right to keep somebody in a two-year contract, but only if it’s subsidized. I should be able to, as soon as my two year contract is over, go to T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint and put that phone on their network.

Yes, I understand the current technological restrictions behind this move. Despite that, future technologies, such as “4G” or Wi-Max should be able to accommodate any phone, regardless of provider. Yes, I do realize that I am in a ‘dream’ world. Do I think that this will ever happen, I’m not sure. Given the current US political system of “lobbying” (if you could even call it that), this will never happen.

It will be interesting to see what the FCC can uncover and reveal to the masses. I know I’ll be sitting here waiting for the results of this investigation.

I'm into everything technology related, particularly anything Apple related. I enjoy programming and tend to lean towards server-based technologies over client-based. You can contact me on twitter, via e-mail, or follow me on friendfeed.