Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice iPhone app proved to be the last straw, and now the Federal Communications Commission is involved. The FCC has begun an investigation into the matter.
“The Federal Communications Commission has a mission to foster a competitive wireless marketplace, protect and empower consumers, and promote innovation and investment,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said this evening. “Recent news reports raise questions about practices in the mobile marketplace. The Wireless Bureau’s inquiry letters to these companies about their practices reflect the Commission’s proactive approach to getting the facts and data necessary to make the best policy decisions on behalf of the American people.”
In its letters to AT&T, Apple, and Google, the Commission asked each party to clarify exactly what happened and why the application was blocked from the iTunes App Store.
To Apple, the commission posed questions redolent of a criminal investigation: “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…”
Among its half-dozen questions, the FCC bluntly asked Apple why the app was rejected, and whether there is a list of prohibited apps that is provided to potential vendors, developers and iTunes customers.
To AT&T, the commission asked a number of similar questions, and asked to “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.”
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out this evening, this inquiry is significant because the FCC received no complaints about the rejection, and it was spurred purely by “Recent press reports [which] 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.”