Apple and AT&T to explain to U.S. FCC why App Store doesn’t offer Google Voice

“Apple and AT&T Friday are expected to tell the Federal Communications Commission why Google’s free voice application, called Google Voice, is banned from the Apple iPhone. Google is also filing comments,” Leslie Cauley reports for USA Today. “But Google (GOOG) may soon find itself on the hot seat as well, telecom and public policy analysts say.”

“Why: Consumers who use Android, the Google-developed operating system for wireless devices, can’t use Skype, a leading Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. A pioneer in free Internet calling, Skype allows you to talk as long as you want without draining cellphone minutes,” Cauley reports. “Android users get Skype Lite, a watered-down version of the original that routes calls over traditional phone networks — not the Internet. As a result, long-distance calls are still cheap or free, but cellphone minutes are gobbled up every time a Skype Lite call is made.”

Cauley reports, “In a statement prepared for USA Today, Google acknowledged that it ‘has the ability to filter,’ or block, VoIP. The search giant said it does that ‘at the request'” of individual operators. Right now, there are just two Android devices in the USA: the G1 and MyTouch, both sold by T-Mobile.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jack F.” for the heads up.]

16 Comments

  1. Glad to see that the iPhone is such an essential life tool that not allowing certain apps causes the government to step in and ask questions. I don’t think we’ll see this same kind of action if RIM refuses an app.

  2. @Always Right: this is only one facet of the whole question of network openness and neutrality and therefore bears some examination. Unfortunately, the FCC is missing the forest whilst studing the leaves on one or two trees. I agree this should be somewhere down the list, but it still belongs on the list.

    By the way, Skype seems to work fine on the iPhone – I even used fring to call home from Ponhpei while sitting in the boardroom of the local telecom authority. They don’t offer roaming (their subscribers can’t really make use of it) and were completely unbothered by my using Skype to make off-island calls for free. Their business model doesn’t rely on gouging a few customers with outrageous international calling charges.

  3. how about investing market manipulation and related yellow journalism?

    How about looking into Microsoft’s Apple investment ie: the shares
    of Apple that they own and possibly dump on slow market days to affect Apple’s stock?

    Or how about looking into who’s behind Pystar and why Bloomberg and others distort Apple news ?

  4. Always Right: I can think of other things the FCC ought to be investigating. This isn’t even on the list.

    For me and many others it is – very much so, in fact!

    On our side of the pond the European Commission is eyeing these same practices closely as well, as they should.

    The whole point of the matter is that the carriers need to acknowledge the end of the age when they could exert tight control over what the users of their bandwidth were or weren’t allowed to do over their networks.

    That old system is increasingly outdated and needs to go.

    I should be able to go wherever I want to go – domestically (particularly including anywhere within the EU!) or abroad – log in to any network and pay reasonable local usage fees for bandwidth usage without any restrictions whatsoever, especially without paying massively inflated and largely baseless roaming charges, grotesquely and again baselessly inflated SMS or MMS fees or the like.

    True: The carriers will need to remain viable, which means that some offerings may need to become more expensive while restrictions are largely abandoned and many plans will roughly cost the same as today while some will go down in price.

    But in the end the carriers are nothing but providers of dumb volume bandwidth, some of it with assured bandwidth and management (voice calls with assigned and globally accessible numbers), some of it without (all the rest).

    They need to be pointed to their rightful place, which is not wielding dictatorial power over what content can be used in which way and for which extortionate fee but instead simply being service providers with simple data pipes which is what they actually are anyway.

    The way the carriers operate right now is a massive impediment to our economies and needs to go away.

    Apple has already broken up much of the worst calcifications with their iPhone deals, but at a price (exclusivity and the carriers’ ability to maintain control over certain aspects as the article indicates). It’s high time the remaining problems are removed as well.

  5. The wireless carriers could be closely compared with the ISPs. In the early years of the industry, there were these online services (Compuserve, Prodigy, AOL, e-World), and each provided a “walled garden” type of offerings with monthly plans (which included a set number of hours per month). When the internet and web became mainstream, these services added the internet on top of their offerings. During those years, they were trying to differentiate from each other by adding content and services to their walled garden and tweaking their pricing for premium services. After some time, it was clear that the model was breaking apart, and ISPs have become commodity providers (much like your power/gas utility provider). They all give you the internet address (a connection to the internet with an IP address, DNS services, one or more e-mail addresses, some space on their servers for that mail, some personal web space, some free firewall, antivirus and anti-spam software for your Windows PC), and the only meaningful differentiators today are price and bandwidth. They all try to add all these other “services” (easy website-building tools, blogging tools, server-side spam control, parental control, etc…) as the differentiators, but in reality, it is just the price and speed that matters to consumers.

    Mobile carriers are in the same position as online services from fifteen years ago. They are trying very hard to prevent commoditization of their offerings (which are, essentially, mobile voice and mobile data). They all pick those offerings apart and chop them into these individual “services” and “features”: voice mail, three-way calling, daytime minutes, weeknight minutes, weekend minutes, local calling, mobile-to-mobile calling, domestic roaming, international roaming, call forwarding, call rejection, visual voice-mail… all basically being one and the same thing — mobile voice service; or SMS, MMS, e-mail, IM, ringtone purchasing, music purchasing, live video (TV), web surfing… all being one and the same thing — mobile data.

    Apple was able to chip a little bit away from that immensely restrictive model by forcing an all-you-can-eat data plan for at least some of those data services. The walls must come down, though. There is nothing in the existing system that gives users ANY advantage. Ironically, I’m sure the current model doesn’t even reach the full potential even for the carriers. In other words, I’m sure they’d be getting much more profits, without major usage overloads, if they just switched to flat-rate unlimited voice, unlimited data (period!), without deconstructing that “voice” and “data” into all those artificial sub-categories mentioned above.

    This will eventually happen. Whether it will happen before I retire remains to be seen (hint: they have another 15 years to beat this deadline of mine).

  6. @ Ping, do the carriers on your side of the pond have to pay billions of dollars for rights to a radio spectrum and then invest more billions on ever changing higher capacity and speed infrastructure to provide decent coverage over 3.8 million square miles or close to 10million square kilometer? I find it amazing how many people on this forum seem to want a free lunch. Cell and wireless data communication is not a right guaranteed in the constitution of any democracy that I know of. Why should wireless carriers not be able to make a decent profit on their offerings? What happens when they can’t make enough money to pay for their support staff as well as improve infrastructure? I’ll tell you what, usage does not stay stagnant, as the diameter (bandwidth) of the pipe increases more traffic will be drawn to it. Without regulation or improvement all customers suffer. I can certainly understand customer impatience with cell phone carriers in general.

    We’ve all had bad experiences at one point or another with the carrier of our choice but as customers we rarely appreciate their position and highly devalue their service. My point, try to look at the whole picture. Google should have known better than to foist this app on the ATT/ Apple infrastructure without some sort of compensatory bargaining. Had Google offered to compensate ATT for potential lost revenue or limit the operation of Google Voice to to wifi this would not be an issue.

  7. bobchr: @ Ping, do the carriers on your side of the pond have to pay billions of dollars for rights to a radio spectrum and then invest more billions on ever changing higher capacity and speed infrastructure to provide decent coverage over 3.8 million square miles or close to 10million square kilometer? I find it amazing how many people on this forum seem to want a free lunch.

    That’s why I explicitly stated that a) the carriers need to remain viable and b) one should expect the overall cost mix to stay roughly on the same level.

    Apart from amorphous internet access the mobile carriers do in fact (as explained above) provide one important additional service: They provide voice channels with assured throughput ((mostly) stable connections) and they maintain the users’ numbers with the associated mechanisms (roaming etc.).

    My complaint is not that everything was to be free – my complaint is that the artificial limitations which have no factual basis but are gratuitous and often extortionate in their extent (SMS/MMS/roaming prices as they are now) need to go away.

    And they will, sooner or later.

  8. @bobchr: Why should wireless carriers not be able to make a decent profit on their offerings? … What happens when they can’t make enough money to pay for their support staff as well as improve infrastructure

    Oh cry me a farking river. These telecoms are raking in millions, even billions. They spend more on advertising campaigns than customer support, and wonder why consumers keep switching between telecoms. They bought up radio spectrum not to improve service, but to prevent competitors from moving in on their local monopolies.

    Google should have known better than to foist this app on the ATT/ Apple infrastructure without some sort of compensatory bargaining. Had Google offered to compensate ATT for potential lost revenue or limit the operation of Google Voice to to wifi this would not be an issue.

    You’re actually using this line of argument? Seriously? Apple is now famous for breaking the US cellphone industry lockdown on apps and features. I avoided cell phones for years because providers would charge extra for Bluetooth, or GPS, or some other trivial feature built into the phone which the rest of the world gets free but were extra charges or even unavailable to us unless we unlocked them or replaced the firmware.

    Apple freed us all from that, by not agreeing to Verizon’s lock-everything-down / charge-for-every-little-thing mentality and going with Cingular/AT&T;instead. Now Google tries to do the same and you side with the telecoms? How hypocritical.

    Even now, AT&T;is trying to figure out how to gouge customers with MMS and tethering fees. Like Google Voice, tethering uses up data rather than voice minutes. GV’s SMS is probably data too.

    Let me repeat that: it’s all DATA. Why to they keep insisting they belong in different buckets and charging differently for each?

    Oh, right. Because they need to “make a decent profit.”

    It’ll be a cold day in hell before I shed a tear over the telecom industry’s inability to do that.

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