In an early sign of its likely activism, the FCC asked for input from all 3 parties on the case of whether AT&T influenced Apple in its decision to reject the Google Voice application. But the questions it asked and the comments back suggest it will be mired in the trees and lose sight of the forest.
Example: Apple suggests its issue with Google is around software OS and UI - not a telecom issue. It does not say it, but you could well argue it is telling the FCC to stay out.
"We are continuing to study the Google Voice application and its potential impact on the iPhone user experience. Google is of course free to provide Google Voice on the iPhone as a web application through Apple’s Safari browser, just as they do for desktop PCs, or to provide its “Google-branded” user experience on other phones, including Android-based phones, and let consumers make their choices."
Then there is the he said/she said part
- Apple says it was not influenced by AT&T and that "No contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple’s decision-making process in this matter"
- AT&T says it did not influence Apple. It acknowledges however their agreement was "Apple would not take affirmative steps to enable an iPhone to use AT&T’s wireless service to make VoIP calls."
- Google says ...sorry you and I are not entitled to know. Redacted. Update 9/18 Google allows FCC to unmask the redacted portion and its shows Apple had rejected its application.
Is Google Voice even VoIP?
- Apple says "not sure"
- AT&T says "it is our understanding that Google Voice is not a Voice over Internet Protocol service"
- Google does not use the term VoIP anywhere in its letter
You see what I mean - a potential rat hole.
The FCC needs to pull back and look at some broader policy questions about mobile consumer experience and economics.
- why are US mobile consumers (very differently than most around the world) metered on both incoming and outgoing calls?
- why this on-going telco FUD that VoIP is cannibalizing their voice revenue, when customers are actually paying for even more expensive mobile data plans to be able to access the VoIP? (or in case of Google Voice, the time on call counts towards your mobile voice minutes)
- why does AT&T charge its customers rates of $ 1.29 a minute from Belgium all the way up to $ 4.99 a minute from Botswana (plus taxes), when local providers can give you similar functionality for 10% or less of the price (and Skype and others even cheaper)? Ditto for international mobile roaming .
- If the EU has moved to cap international roaming charges for its citizens should the US be doing something similar for its citizens?
- what percent of network coverage is truly 3G? Why not a "truth in advertising" statement which clearly shows only 30% of the US has access to 3G (the telcos do link to their coverage maps - but try squinting through the confusing colors on their coverage, partner coverage etc)
- if there are significant 3G contention issues (as many iPhone users are reporting) why are telcos selling 3G data cards to congest the networks even more?
- given that after 8 years after it started 3G deployment is still a work in progress in this country, why are telcos being allowed to glibly talk about 4G and LTE without specific rollout schedules?
- why are telcos not telling customers how much of so called 3G coverage is via wi-fi and that they will need broadband at home and a hotspot plan when they travel to get any kind of satisfactory coverage?
- what are customers being told at point-of-sale? Many report they are being sold proprietary navigation, music, voice dialing and other services - without being educated there are plenty of comparable third party applications and services. In some cases the telcos have masked or crippled base functionality delivered by the device manufacturer to be able to sell their own services.
- why are telcos not required to show in plain English how much they are subsidizing on a handset, and how much that costs the customer incrementally over the 2 year plan commitment?
I could go on. Instead we are going to be arguing whether Google Voice is even a VoIP application.