Apple's Google Voice Rejection Wakes Up A Dormant FCC; Investigation Begins

from the whoops dept

We’ve had a bunch of stories about Apple’s rather arbitrary nature in rejecting iPhone apps it doesn’t like — including ones where it claims that they’re not allowed because they compete with Apple. However, Apple’s recent decision to reject Google’s Voice application didn’t just attract general public interest in Apple’s policies, it appears to have awoken the latest crop of FCC bosses. Yes, the FCC has requested more info from Apple, AT&T and Google concerning Apple’s rejection of the Google app. I wonder how the random Apple drone who made that decision is feeling right now?

Either way, this isn’t good for anyone. The FCC’s reasoning is that it:

“has a mission to foster a competitive wireless marketplace, protect and empower consumers, and promote innovation and investment.”

That’s actually a bit of a stretch on the FCC’s actual mandate. And as ridiculous as I think Apple’s actions are here, having the FCC get involved doesn’t seem good for anyone either. The FCC shouldn’t be involved in deciding what applications get put on phones. Apple’s decision has angered a bunch of people, with some swearing off the iPhone because of it. In those cases, those people have other options and other phones to go to. The situation doesn’t require the FCC to get involved. It should just require Apple coming to its senses and getting rid of its silly policy of outright rejections of apps it doesn’t like.

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Companies: apple, at&t, fcc, google

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Comments on “Apple's Google Voice Rejection Wakes Up A Dormant FCC; Investigation Begins”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I generally agree with you, but not in this case. Two objections:
1. This doesn’t seem the work of a drone. It looks like a deliberate decision from at&t to hinder competition.
2. As such, it makes sense for the FCC to at least ask, since it’s in charge of regulating AT&T (I may be wrong on this one).

The FCC is not deciding what apps get put on phones, it’s just making sure that AT&T is not hindering competition and IMHO that’s a good thing. And Apple coming to its senses doesn’t seem like a likely alternative.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, good point. But so far they only asked for information. They may be just finding out if it falls on their turf. I always thought that what Apple does is so anti-competitive as to be illegal, and the FCC may not be the best organization for that… but it’s a start that someone is looking into the issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Not limiting consumer choices would be eliminating the DMCA so we can modify our own devices as we please. Forcing Apple to offer apps is way overstepping government bounds. If you don’t like it(I don’t) then don’t buy Apple products(I don’t). This move erodes freedom and is bad for the market in the long run.

Randy says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It’s not just Apple’s consumers that suffer from Apple’s policies, it’s developers that spend weeks or months of their time building an app that appears to meet Apples terms only to find out they are screwed and won’t make a dime. People have a right to hate Apple for that. They seem to play by their own rules and bend them at will. I am a developer and will never develop for any Apple product. I prefer to get paid for my work.

Eugene (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The FCC hasn’t told anyone to do anything yet. But Apple, at least in theory, should have a policy and set of rules by which they choose which Apps to put in their store. If someone then follows that policy and those rules – even if they’re Google – then their App should be allowed in. Otherwise, it’s an anti-competitive practice. You’re artificially limiting the options of consumers who use the App Store.

I don’t like that it’s the FCC doing this either, but it’s better than nobody at all.

coolridge (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s exactly right and I am quite sure that is exactly what they are doing. And the logic is sound! As phones move more into the IT arena and other phones become capable of downloading customized applications the questions that arise where the requirements of two worlds (FTC for software and FCC for wireless spectrum use) collide become apparent. It’s fair for the FCC to start asking questions now as we will all have to answer them later. Software has been basically required to be open for sometime. Closed application systems never make it. This goes doubly so for Europe (except when made by any EU government or are any company “in” with the EU commission).

Jane Forster says:

disagree with your take

This is google were talking about. They would have built this app with full understanding of the terms & services of apples app store. This just proves that the app store t&s is utter crap..

Us developers try to do the right thing and we’re treated like this. This is the worst platform ive had dealings with BUT i need to build for it because im trying to make a living. I just can’t ignore it.

I really hope that Apple/AT&T gets a good kick up the ass for this!

Anonymous Coward says:

“That’s actually a bit of a stretch on the FCC’s actual mandate. And as ridiculous as I think Apple’s actions are here, having the FCC get involved doesn’t seem good for anyone either.”

At the end of the day, it isn’t any different than dragging them in for net neutrality issues, which are really consumer and not technical issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t get it. Mobile phone carriers have been dictating which apps they allow on their phones for years. Now suddenly the FCC is getting involved? Why do people think that the App store is something new? Every phone I’ve owned for several years has had an app store. The only difference is that Apple is actually being more open than before. They’re allowing anyone to submit apps. It’s only because it’s Apple that people care.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Hmm. Where the hell is Rob R.?

He should be thrilled over this news. If anything, it should help open his mind on where the true narrow minded opinions spawn.

Oh, and for clarification: I’m not narrow minded. I’m just an arrogant ass.

And damn proud of it.

So when Apple comes out with the next new iPhone (killing employees indirectly in the meantime), idiots will flock to buy it and all this crap will repeat itself.

Oh, and AT&T will continue screwing over customers while they also support it. What was the last thing dropped again?

Right. I lost track too.

CleverName says:

Re: Thats what apple fans get a big kick in the face.

“Microsoft is the world leader in software technology”
– Substitute “a” for “the”, just a suggestion

“[Micrsoft] is competitor friendly”
– Ha – that’s a good one πŸ™‚

“…and its software is designed with the customers needs in mind.”
– And another, you are on a roll !

That’s funny !

YouAreWrong says:

mike = wrong as usual

Wow Mike. Do you know anything about net neutrality at all? The original policy statement said the FCC wanted to allow any device or software as long as it doesn’t damage the network. That’s completely in line with SCOTUS’s ruling in Carterfone.

Net neutrality is all about contention ratios. If you pay for a level of service, telcos should not be allowed to use their government granted monopolies to prohibit you from using the level of service you paid for. That’s exactly what’s going on here. If you pay for 5 gb of transfer, or 30 gb of transfer, it’s none of the telco’s business how you use that.

Jason Hoover says:

I really do not think that the FCC needs to get involved however, I think that Apple should have more of an open policy about the applications that it allows on. The FCC is right that by them saying that an application can not be on the iPhone because it does the same thing as an apple program is not right and someone should put a stop to it. I am all for an open platform were good programs can be created and put on a phone even if it is better or worse than another application.

Anonymous Coward says:

I noticed that there are a number of news articles that are Anti-Google and Anti-Apple at the same time.

When Steve Ballmer said something along the lines of ‘People’s perceptions of Microsoft will change’ I took note.

So the most recent print version of The Onion features the headline “Apple Claims New iPhone Only Visible To Most Loyal Of Customers”, which is odd to be on the front page, considering The Onion’s Apple-friendly demographic. In fact, I am considering suspending and even canceling my subscription. But, what’s more interesting is the question of “How did that make the front page?” All roads lead to Rome, and perhaps they received money from somewhere.

I wouldn’t be surprised if an unsuspecting third party, who has most to loose, and lot of money in the bank as a result of a very interesting merger/acquisition in the past few months, is creating much of the astroturf we see today at other sites.

The tipping point for me on this was when Mike Arrington wrote commentary about leaving his iPhone on the basis of Apple not being able to negotiate with Google for a GrandCentral number or some dumb thing. His rant continued about how great the Pre is, and at this point is when I tuned out.

The truth of the matter is this: No carrier can be 100% to anyone 100% of the time. If you have beef, you need to call the carrier and say “Hey asshole, I don’t have service here.” Any decent carrier will then include that in their yearly capex expenditures and will attempt to get you something that works.

The only reason I don’t have service at my house is because when my provider wanted to build a tower a block away from me was because I didn’t show up for the Homeowners Association Meeting and was as vocal with them as I was with the carrier.

Yes, Arrigton, I complained, and they put their money where their mouth was, but I didn’t get a cell site they were willing to build because I didn’t whine loud enough to my HOA. Grass not cut every damned week? Fence not to HOA specs? Maybe you have the same problem.

Get real. Arrington is a whiner, but not a whiner enough.

The best thing to do is catalog the number of Anti-Google and Anti-Apple articles over the past few months, especially here. This seems to be a deliberate attempt by a third party to control the conversation. Using Google Voice as a scapegoat is stupid.

minijedimaster (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So the most recent print version of The Onion features the headline “Apple Claims New iPhone Only Visible To Most Loyal Of Customers”, which is odd to be on the front page, considering The Onion’s Apple-friendly demographic. In fact, I am considering suspending and even canceling my subscription. But, what’s more interesting is the question of “How did that make the front page?” All roads lead to Rome, and perhaps they received money from somewhere.

Dude, seriously… Cancel your subscription. You have absolutely NO sense of humor. Oh sure, it’s all fun and games until they make fun of your apple fanboism. Get a grip idiot. The rest of your post = tl;dr nor did I care after reading that third paragraph.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if an unsuspecting third party, who has most to loose, and lot of money in the bank as a result of a very interesting merger/acquisition in the past few months, is creating much of the astroturf we see today at other sites.”

A lot of (big, very well known) companies work together behind the scenes without anyone, including the government, knowing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sources that affected #27’s comment:

There are others that influenced this comment but I can’t seem to find a key Ballmer/Bloomberg/Reuters article. Perhaps it’s been retracted.

I think I remember something to the likes of, and I’m paraphrasing ‘Perceptions will change’ about something. The article itself was surreal.

Shortly after, the VP at Wergner Enstron was promoted. Perhaps if you search for Ballmer at Bloomberg you’ll have better luck. But maybe the quote never existed. I’d like to believe the former than the latter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Equal Justice

Again, that is the FTC, not the FCC who should look at Apple, and who looked into Microsft and Google.

Any ways, the reason they do not look at Apple, is Apple is not large enough, even if almost every action it does screams ‘Monopolistic/AntiCompetetive Practices’.

Make your hardware work only with ITunes?
Kill ITunes ability to work with competitors?
Make your software only usable on hardware purchased from you?
Control competitors software, even blocking it entirely?

I mean, if Microsoft closed off Windows Embedded and rejected an office app or browser since they already offer software for that, you know there would be a mob demanding the head of every exec, and the government to come down like a ton of bricks. Yet when apple does it, people cheer and thank them for keeping things simple and ‘just working.’

Still that should be for the FTC, not FCC.

Rob says:

Monopolistic/AntiCompetetive Practices

yes I’m with jkass and anonymous coward on this move by Apple and ATT to reject the Google app. It’s monopolistic by any reasonable standard. If Microsoft were doing this there’d be a huge outcry and probably litigation. With Apple&ATT, people give up? Makes no sense. Should be FTC investigating not FCC.

ATT whines about bandwidth, but it’s not about that. ATT hasn’t enabled MMS on the iPhone 2G (edge) since its release two years ago. Every other phone on the market except iPhone has MMS and we don’t see the networks crashing from people sending pictures and movies to each other. Nope- it’s pure greed and RICO might not be too harsh a response by the feds.

Rob says:

Re: Re: Monopolistic/AntiCompetetive Practices

Yes I think the racketeering definition could work here: the “business is making money by selling a solution to a problem that it created (or that it intentionally allows to continue to exist)”. That is, Apple&ATT are intentionally allowing each other in collusion to squash products that provide alternative solutions to products for which Apple&ATT gain profits. The RICO statute “is sufficiently broad to encompass illegal activities relating to any enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce”. “RICO also permits a private individual harmed by the actions of such an enterprise to file a civil suit; if successful, the individual can collect treble damages.”( ,

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Monopolistic/AntiCompetetive Practices

The ATT network wasn’t meant to handle the bandwidth that came into play when the iPhone took off. Remember ATT before the iPhone? It was the whipping boy of the wireless industry. A large percentage of iPhone users do NOT like the ATT network- for good reason.
Go get a Palm Pre!

Anonymous Coward says:

Smells like a PR thread

I love this thread! Since #24, it’s all about getting the FTC to respond to the problem. Wow!

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Seems this is a thread funded by PR. I find it hard to believe any number of unbiased people would actually say these types of thins.

If it is all PR crap, Someone’s sure getting their moneys worth!

kingstonian (profile) says:

Iphone app store??

You guys have to realize the govt CAN get involved with anything they want, it doesn’t HAVE to make sense, or even have a reason. Govt is politics and they HAVE to justify their work. Forcing MSFT to have a removable IE was ridiculous, but yet the govt spent millions (?) of dollars in litigation which should have never been done. And MSFT lost on some anti competitive issues, was the FCC right? or can you indite a “Ham sandwich”

I don’t expect much to come of it unless the FCC, can blame AT&T cause the current administrations staff has been reportedly a big fan of Apple (this makes sense) and has said they were displeased there werent any apple computers in the white house.

Dez (profile) says:

It's only a letter

I haven’t seen anything that says ‘investigation’ except for here. The letter the FCC sent was an inquiry into why the Offical and 3rd party apps were denied from the app store. The only difference from me sending the same letter is that the FCC will probably get an answer and if it doesn’t, then an investigation will start.

My own personal thoughts: Maybe I’m completely missing the point, but I fail to see the big deal with why AT&T would want Apple to reject the app. The fact of the matter is that Google Voice is only a proxy. You have to be on the phone to talk to anyone, you can’t do it over the interwebs, and to make sure to answer SMS messages in a timely manner you’d have to receive (and reply) from the actual phone itself (thereby eliminating the ‘loss of revenue’ argument almost entirely).

I am a Google Voice user. I got my invite a few weeks ago, and after trying it out I’m impressed. I’ve begun the process of switching all my phone numbers to GV. The whole point of the application, to me, is to ease the ability of sorting phone records, voicemails, and text messages.

David says:

Still a legal issue

This may not be within the jurisdiction of the FCC, but it still very much a real legal issue: Google cannot post the app on its site and tell people how to install it. Thanks to the DMCA, they need a clear ruling that helping iPhone users jailbreak their phones is legal. It’s the Copyright Office that needs to act here, not the FCC. It has to undo its monopolistic rules, not single Apple out for being anti-competitive.

roostertronic (profile) says:

Help protect US DVD and music Industry from legal pirates

surf: US vs Antigua WTO online gambling Bush Uigea for proof of this article

US global trade debacles endangering US copywrite protection: Need Pres Obama attention.

US lost to Antiqua in the UIGEA unfair trade dispute. US offered the small Caribean Nation $500.000 compensation. The World Trade Organization panel awarded the right for Antigua to violate US copyright protection. Antiqua can now produce copies of U.S. DVDs and music CDs without having to worry about copyright infringement up to $21 million every year.

It’s a landmark moment for global trade. Mark Mendel, lead lawyer quote “That has only been done once before and is, I believe, a very potent weapon.”
In response to the arbitrator’s decision the U.S. has requested Antigua hold off on imposing sanctions authorized by the WTO until Washington can revise its commitments to the organization. What happen if Antiqua decides to implement the WTO decision? ZookZ ( has announced plans to capitalize on the 2007 WTO ruling

Comment: Using US patent rights a ” stake” in global trade issue should be a concern of Congress in Patent Reform Act of 2009.

The simmering dispute escallated into Goliath.- Recent development in the fight against the UIGEA have mushroomed into:
a) word that the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is considering filing a class action lawsuit against the government over the UIGEA.
b) Violation of Trade Agreements. June 14, 2009, Amy Calistri
On June 10th, the European Commission released a report finding that U.S. online gaming laws and their enforcement are in violation of the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement of Trade and Services (GATS). The European Commission’s investigation was prompted by a complaint lodged in December 2007 by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) following the United States’ 2006 passage of the UIGEA.
The report made it perfectly clear that there are high costs associated with U.S. infractions, citing the losses in revenue and stock market capitalization incurred by European companies who had to vacate the U.S. market.
c).Seven countries now including Australia, Canada and Macau have filed compensation claims against the United States in its ongoing internet gambling WTO case with Antigua and Barbuda.

Rep Barney Frank Statement on European Commission’s Report on U.S. Internet Gambling Laws.
. The report concludes that the U.S. measures constitute an obstacle to trade that is inconsistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. It also concludes that U.S. laws deny access and discriminate against foreign suppliers of gambling and betting services inconsistently with U.S. WTO obligations.
β€œThis is further argument for repealing the law which currently restricts the personal freedom of American adults to gamble online.

Spirit of innovation on Felony level Bush: Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act.

An Inventor, author of this article awaits the USDA reply from his offer to ease the suffering of Rural America from escallating unemployment. which resulted from legislation prohibiting breeders’ interstate and foreign transport of their product.The inventor narrates the economic situation and solution for job creation in its articles on entitled “Economic recovery for the rural areas and small businessmen” and “Challenge to athletics, couches”. The Rooster Electronic Invention can be jumpstarted anywhere and can apply online license in the Carribean but prefer US. Surf for prototypes and search for cockfighting alternative, cockfight skills and High score wins. The invention proposes an ONLINE Roosterbox. Browse :

Intellectual Property Office Phil.* Rooster Electronic Boxing * Application No. : 1200002498 * Published IPO Official Gazette *Inventor : Eduardo De La PeΓ±a

KaiserJay says:


Correct me if I’m totally wrong here, but if the Google Voice app was rejected on the grounds it would compete with AT&T’s services, why was the Skype app approved? It has most of Google Voice’s functions, plus free Skype to Skype calls, and offers cheaper calls to mobiles & landlines; would this not be a much bigger threat to mobile phone operators?

Anti - FCC liberal says:

Stay out

Keep the government out of an area where the market is more than competent to keep Apple on it’s toes. If people (users and developers) get mad and leave the iPhone there is a real consequence to Apple. So leave it alone. NO ONE ever guaranteed a free-for-all in apps in the App Store.

Btw: Skype on iPhone only works over wifi, it doesn’t work over AT&T’s data network. Google does have a way (not as elegant) to get Google Voice onto Safari. So the functionality won’t be missing on the iPhone, just one of the ways of implementing it.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Just a thought

The speculation about why the FCC has me giggling. Maybe it’s a thought crime out of “1984” to have a business with its own proprietary practices and personal software it pimps out. P.S. I still get Binged when I loose connection. IE still pops up after being “uninstalled” for certain links.

Solution go open source like UBuntu… OH WAIT I can’t!!! cause Dell’s drivers choke on anything but XP or up. Not to mention the AMD Dual Core fix patch… I could go on but I hope you get the point.

Oh and I just love to see how far the FCC can take this since there working off of dam near punch hole era computers.

Kinda sad at all this because I was looking forward to a fully capable MAC that could fit in a fanny pack.

Griff says:

What's AT&T's problem ?

I may be missing something, but if I have a GV account and it causes my AT&T iPhone to ring for incoming calls, doesn’t that mean I end up burning more AT&T minutes ?

This would be like AT&T blocking paid calls to yellow pages because it was run by Sprint.

Or do AT&T offer a competing service they’d prefer we all used ?

But either way, it’s a free market. If no GV is a deal breaker, choose a different phone. FCC should concentrate on the crimes of the cablecos, not trivia like this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What's AT&T's problem ?

No, in part Google Voice breaks the domination of your cell phone company (and local phone company if you use one) because they ring multiple phones at the same time. So if you are at home, your home phone and cell phone ring at the same time. Instead of wasting AT&T minutes, you answer on your home phone.

Further, you can dump AT&T and move to a competitor without concerns over your mobile number, because the only number you need to give anyone is your GoogleVoice number. It makes you way less dependant on your mobile carrier.

It’s a very typical Google move, trying to get into between you and what you want to do, and finding a way to make money from getting in the middle of everyone else’s business.

Apple on the other hand is making serious coin on their exclusive deals with AT&T, and they don’t want people to think about other carriers (and other phones as a result). Nothing shall come between Apple and it’s money.

John Raven says:

Apple's Rejections

As an iPhone app author, I hope the FCC DOES get involved. Apple’s arbitrary rejection of apps has struck our apps too… they were approved for nearly 6 months and about 9 updates… and then suddenly… they contained “mature” content – which they don’t.

It’s as if they have three manic-depressive approvers – a liberal, a conservative and a complete lunatic – and depending on their moods… they just reject or approve on whims.

Let’s face it… when Baby Shaker GETS approved, and a self-help application doesn’t – you know there are issues.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Time for a car analogy

FCC should get involved / FCC shouldn’t
Apple should be forced to open up / People should buy something else if they don’t like it.

Sometimes we are talking about software, and perhaps, just a little, compatibility et. al. makes sense. We are talking about HARDWARE. (Yes, yes, we are talking about software compatibility _OF_ hardware. Doesn’t change what I’m about to write.) As in this is a physical thing, book, table, phone, car that’s I’ve bought and the seller (Apple) wants to dictate to the buyer (you) what you can or can’t do with it _AFTER_ they’ve sold it to you. The apologists are screaming, “If you don’t like Apple’s rules then don’t buy that product.” That’s not really an answer.

If we look at it through the ever popular device of the car analogy it becomes painfully obvious just how senseless that response it.

If I buy a car from Hyundai and they said that I can only use Hyundai parts in it. Should I be able to install Motocraft spark plugs (assuming Motocraft makes compatible plugs)? I can hear the Hyundai apologists yelling, “If you don’t like that policy, then just don’t buy a Hyundai.”

Perhaps Hyundai has a deal with Exxon, they’ll sell you a Hyundai at a discount, but you have to use Exxon gas for two years. They even install a special hexagonal opening in the gas tank that only special Exxon gas pumps use. People who don’t want to use Exxon, perhaps some other company sells cheaper gas or there aren’t any Exxon stations in their neck of the woods, create a Hyundai gas tank to standard gas tank adapter so that you can fill it up with gas from any gas station. Hyundai claims that this is stealing their intellectual property, and that it’s illegal to adapt Hyundai cars to use standard gas pumps. If people are allowed to do it then we are helping the terrorists, and the drug dealers and all sorts of _bad_things_ will happen.

Finally, Google gets into the automobile industry by selling a new engine module that plugs into your motor and gets you 15 more miles per gallon (it also sends a copy of every where you were driving to Google servers, but we’ll ignore that for now). Hyundai says you can’t install that because it duplicates existing functionality, and of course, if you get more miles per gallon Exxon sells less gas and Hyundai gets a smaller cut. You see Hyundai has established a process where all third party parts have to be sold through their store and they have the right to approve or disprove and Hyundai parts. It’s all for the good of their customers you see. The Hyundai store has over 50,000 addons so far. Most are various color and style mirrors, fenders, and a horn that sounds like your car is farting. Serious addons, ones that improve the handling, lighting, fuel efficiency, or even the types of music you can play are randomly rejected. But hey, if you don’t like it, you can always buy another car, so it’s O.K.

That sound about right? If Hyundai can do it today, then perhaps Ford will do it tomorrow. If Apple can do it today, then perhaps Microsoft will do it tomorrow. You can’t run whatever software you want on your iPhone, or your PC. We’re not saying they have to support it, but they shouldn’t be allowed to prevent you from trying yourself. Just like I can install whatever hardware/software in my car once I’ve bought it. I should have the same rights with my cell phone, my PC, my books.

The government should be stepping in to make sure this is the case. If you modify the base band radio in your cell phone then you may not be able to legally use it, just as if you elevate you car too high, or don’t put any seat belts and directionals on your car, you can’t drive it on the street.

Perhaps it should be the FCC, perhaps someone else.

hegemon13 says:


No, the FCC should not be involved. The FTC, however, probably should, as Apple has been thumbing their nose at antitrust laws for the last several years. This is yet another example.

And for those who will shout that they don’t have a monopoly, they don’t have to. Certain behaviors are antitrust whether or not you have an existing monopoly. Creating artificial barriers (as with iTunes/iPod) that exist solely to block competition is illegal. If this is what it takes to get regulators to take notice, so be it.

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