Federal Communications Commission seems awfully interested in the fact that Apple rejected the Google Voice app(which would have let Apple consumers make calls via Google’s VOIP application rather than AT&T) from inclusion in its App Store:
Right about now, Apple probably wishes it had never rejected Google Voice and related apps from the iPhone. Or maybe it was AT&T who rejected the apps. Nobody really knows. But the FCC launched an investigation last night to find out, sending letters to all three companies (Apple, AT&T, and Google) asking them to explain exactly what happened.
On its face, it might seem odd to some people that the FCC is investigating the rejection of a single iPhone app. After all, iPhone apps are rejected every day. But the Google Voice rejection caused an unusual amount of uproar, and there is nothing like a high-profile case to make an example out of in pursuit of pushing a bigger policy agenda. The FCC investigation is not just about the arbitrary rejection of a single app. It is the FCC’s way of putting a stake in the ground for making the wireless networks controlled by cell phone carriers as open as the Internet.
In a normal lassez faire world you probably wouldn’t be wrong in questioning the government’s authority to enquire into the actions of Apple’s iPhone App Store, but cellphone frequences are temporary monopolies granted by government, so government has a legitimate interest in requesting that services delivered over them are kept reasonably open.
There are two interesting points/questions are raised by this: 1) Does the Apple iPhone now have monopoly power? If the answer is yes than that is pretty damned impressive for a phone that didn’t even exist 2 or 3 years ago! 2) Apple has actually singled out Google as a threat and sought to block it. If you doubt that statement then ask yourself this question: There are already plenty of VOIP apps available (eg Fring or even Skype), so why would Apple specifically block Google if it didn’t see Google specifically as a threat?
Of course one key fact in all of this is that Apple didn’t lease the frequency, AT&T (Apple’s chosen flagship carrier in the US) did. So since AT&T didn’t reject the app Apple would say everyone should just mind their own business….which is a handy excuse don’t you think?