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Monday, 24 August 2009 19:38

Apple responds to the FCC accusations

In its recent filing with the FCC, Apple claims to have not yet made a decision to reject the Google Voice iPhone app.  This doesn't necessarily accord with the original complaint, nor the responses of the other players.

First reported a few weeks ago, the US FCC requested Apple, Google and AT&T discuss their roles in the (apparent) rejection of the Google Voice iPhone app, giving them until August 21st to respond.

The responses were all filed on that date and make for interesting reading.  Thus far, only Engadget has transcripts of them.

The short summary first.  

Apple claims that it hasn't (yet) rejected Google's app.

AT&T has no idea what's going on.

Google has claimed privilege on all significant responses.

In a little more detail, it is more interesting to look at what the three respondents didn't say.

Both Apple and AT&T neglected to outline their mutual obligations.  Apple claims that, in response to one question, “no contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple's decision-making process in this matter.”  

However, in response to the next question Apple notes that “There is a provision in Apple's agreement with AT&T that obligates Apple not to include functionality in any Apple phone that enables a customer to use AT&T's cellular network service to originate or terminate a VoIP session without obtaining AT&T's permission.”

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those two statements mutually exclusive?

Coming back to one of the opening tenets, Google has said that their iPhone app was rejected, Apple insists that this was a hasty assertion.

In the original item it was made very clear that the app was rejected.  Similarly, in an earlier piece the same assertion was made.

Things get a little more complex.  

One would have thought that Apple and AT&T would have the most to hide in this whole thing, yet perusing the three submissions, it is only Google's that contains any redacted content (where Google has asked for a certain section of it's response to be restricted from public view).

More interesting is the specific area of redaction.  In response to the question “What explanation was given for Apple's rejection…” The entire response was redacted, with a hint (judging by the page layout) that perhaps 200 – 300 words were hidden.

There has yet to be a FCC response (hardly enough time, of course), but there are also some unrelated but parallel issues.

This seems to boil down to a relatively cosy relationship between AT&T and Apple and the relative support of each other's business model up against the interloper who is trying to bust both.  On the contrary, the interloper is (probably) bigger than both of the other players, yet is playing the poor cousin.

Similarly, this seems to be closely constructed around the arrangement between Apple and AT&T who have an exclusive distribution arrangement within the US, yet there are an enormous number of iPhone owners outside the US who are also implicitly governed by this relationship.  Both whether they like it or not, AND whether or not they have consented to it via their own local telco arrangements.

Clearly, we await the FCC response, but as outlined, there are also a growing number of side-issues as well.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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