Apple’s move to strip third-party Google Voice iPhone apps from the AppStore drew the ire of iPhone users everywhere. To make matters worse, Apple’s secretive ways have shrouded mystery over why Google Voice apps like GV Mobile were recently pulled from the AppStore. Did AT&T ask Apple to ban Google Voice apps in order to prevent iPhone customers from making cheap phone calls and sending discount text messages? Did Google request the iPhone apps’ removal in an attempt to push their own Google Voice iPhone app? Fortunately, the federal government is just as curious as we are. The Federal Communications Commission has launched an official inquiry into why Apple gave Google Voice the boot.
The FCC has sent out letters to Apple, AT&T and Google, asking each company to explain their involvement in the decision to remove the Google Voice apps. The FCC’s mission to “to foster a competitive wireless marketplace, protect and empower consumers, and promote innovation and investment” puts it in a unique position of power to find out whether or not Apple, AT&T or Google colluded to squash competition in the wireless market.
In their letter to Apple, the FCC asks why the company did what it did. The FCC also wants to know if AT&T had anything to do with their decision. And, if so, to what extent did AT&T influence Apple’s decision. The feds are also asking what kind of obligations Apple has to AT&T when it comes to approving apps for the iPhone AppStore.
The letter to AT&T likewise asks whether or not the wireless carrier is involved in AppStore approvals. More specifically, the FCC would like to know if Apple is contractually obligated to bow to AT&T’s will when it comes to the iPhone. The FCC is also requesting copies of all communications between Apple, AT&T and Google.
Google got off the easiest. The FCC wants to know if Apple gave Google a reason as to why the Google Voice app was rejected, and if there are any other iPhone apps coming from Google.
The important thing to note here is that the FCC is launching an official inquiry into why Apple suddenly took a disliking to Google Voice apps. The matter will open to the public, so official company comments on the matter will be made available for everyone to see. We’ll keep a close eye on this one.