Tag Archive for ‘FCC’

AT&T’s FaceTime Restrictions Could Be Violating FCC Rules ➝

Brian Chen:

Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that focuses on Internet law, says that by prohibiting its other customers from using the video-calling feature on the network, AT&T is violating net-neutrality rules by blocking a service that potentially competes with its own.

No word from the FCC yet, but I hope they do the right thing and keep AT&T from blocking FaceTime for its non-shared data customers. I’ve been holding onto unlimited data since the release of the original iPhone and would prefer to keep it rather than move over to the shared data plans just for FaceTime.

Palm’s CES Announcement ➝

Gizmodo has revealed that Palm is scheduling an invitation-only press event during CES. It will be held on Thursday, January 7, 2010, at 11am.

Gizmodo’s Jason Chen says that an update to the Pre is a safe bet. I agree, the Pre was announced at this year’s CES and I doubt Palm would go more than a year without announcing a new flagship handset. That is, unless they’re following in Apple’s footsteps. Apple announced the original iPhone at MacWorld 2007 but it wasn’t available until June 29. Apple didn’t announce their followup handset, the iPhone 3G, until June 9 of 2008. Apple took nearly a year and a half to announce their next handset.

Just speaking of Palm’s flagship handset, the Pre was announced at CES last year. But, the device wasn’t available until June. Palm announced their first modern handset early, just like Apple, I wonder if they’re going to wait until late spring to announce their followup, just like Apple did.

If Palm was to announce a new handset, there is also the question of whether or not it will be on Sprint. There have been some rumblings of a webOS device coming to Verizon. Engadget found an FCC filing for a Palm Pixi destined for Verizon’s network (with Wi-Fi no less). Feeding more fuel to the fire, a Phone Arena tipster (and a “trusted” one at that) sent them a document revealing that Verizon has already started training personnel on webOS.

It’s safe to say that any Palm device coming to Verizon would be a boon for Palm, but, if true, I’m certain Sprint won’t be too happy about it.

Previously:
10/18/09:
Verizon to Get Palm Pre ‘Early Next Year’
9/9/09: The Palm Pixi
5/19/09: Palm Pre to Release on June 6 for $199.99

Update 1/13/10: Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus Coming to Verizon

FCC May Investigate Google Voice ➝

In an interesting turn of events the FCC may investigate Google over Google Voice. The concern is that the service blocks some numbers in rural areas claiming that it is too expensive to connect. Federal law prohibits traditional carriers from blocking such calls.

AT&T has complained about this to the FCC saying that Google would have an unfair advantage if they didn’t have to follow the same rules as the other carriers. But, as we all know, Google Voice isn’t a traditional carrier. In fact Google Voice is barely usable without pairing it with a traditional telephone service.

This is just one more flare up in the ongoing feud among Google, Apple, and AT&T. Things will eventually get sorted out and I have a hunch that the FCC will get what’s best for users.

Previously:
8/7/09:
AT&T Lifts Restriction on VoIP Over 3G
9/19/09: Google Un-Redacts Its FCC Filing
8/22/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Respond to the FCC

Update 10/14/09: From AT&T’s latest letter to the FCC (a copy of which can be found on TechCrunch):

But Google’s call blocking begs an even more important question that the Commission must consider as it evaluates whether to adopt rules regarding Internet openness. If the Commission is going to be a “smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet,” then shouldn’t its “beat” necessarily cover the entire Internet neighborhood, including Google? Indeed, if the Commission cannot stop Google from blocking disfavored telephone calls as Google contends, then how could the Commission ever stop Google from also blocking disfavored websites from appearing in the results of its search engine; or prohibit Google from blocking access to applications that compete with its own email, text messaging, cloud computing and other services; or otherwise prevent Google from abusing the gatekeeper control it wields over the Internet?

Harsh words indeed. AT&T also says that Google Voice is blocking calls to an ambulance service, church, Benedictine nuns, doctors, etc. This feud is getting more interesting by the day.

Update 10/28/09: The Washington Post is reporting that although Google is still blocking some phone numbers, they have reduced the number of blocked numbers to fewer than 100.

Update 1/2/10: VoiceCentral Returning to the iPhone

Google Un-Redacts Its FCC Filing ➝

When Google initially sent their response to the FCC the section detailing why Apple rejected the Google Voice application was redacted. Google has since retracted that request and the full filing is now publicly available.

On July 7, Mr. Eustace [Google Senior Vice President of Engineering & Research] and Mr. Schiller spoke over the phone. It was during this call that Mr. Schiller informed Mr. Eustace that Apple was rejecting the Google Voice application for the reasons described above in 2(a).

Google clearly states that Apple was “rejecting” the application. It seems that Google doesn’t see the difference between “not accepted” and “rejected.” The distinction doesn’t really exist for users and developers, but from Apple’s perspective there is a distinct difference.

From 2(a):

Apple’s representatives informed Google that the Google Voice Application was rejected because Apple believed the application duplicated the core dialer functionality of the iPhone. The Apple representatives indicated that the company did not want applications that could potentially replace such functionality.

There isn’t anything new here. And quite honestly, I don’t understand why Google wanted this redacted to begin with.

Previously:
8/22/09:
Apple, AT&T, and Google Respond to the FCC
8/4/09: Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

Update 9/19/09: An Apple representative writes to Silicon Alley Insider saying:

We do not agree with all of the statements made by Google in their FCC letter. Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application and we continue to discuss it with Google.

The “continued discussion” is what keeps the application from being considered “rejected.”

Update 9/21/09: There is a Difference Between ‘Not Approved’ and ‘Rejected’

Update 10/4/09: Apple and Google Slowly Parting Ways

Update 10/7/09: AT&T Lifts Restrictions on VoIP Over 3G

Update 8/14/09: FCC May Investigate Google Voice

Update 1/2/10: VoiceCentral Returning to the iPhone

Apple, AT&T, and Google Voice

The Recap

Early last week Apple began removing Google Voice applications from the App Store claiming that they “duplicate features that come with the iPhone.” Then we learn that Apple blocked Google’s official Google Voice application from the App Store.

The next day John Gruber wrote a very interesting piece regarding the issue which was later updated the article confirming speculation, AT&T was the one to blame.

Later in the week the Federal Communications Commission launched an inquiry into why Apple rejected the application. The letter sent to Apple (PDF) asked how AT&T was consulted in the decision, if at all, and “what are the standards for considering and approving iPhone applications?”

AT&T has denied blocking the Google Voice applications saying “AT&T does not manage or approve applications for the App Store.” This stance is contradictory to reports in May that AT&T limited the SlingPlayer app to Wi-Fi only.

The most recent (and most interesting) part of this story is that Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt has left Apple’s board. From Apple’s press release:

“Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple’s Board.”

The Opinion

Apple is upset with Google. That is why Google Voice was rejected. Google has consistently moved into similar markets as Apple, this is why Schmidt had to leave the board. Remember Google’s Latitude application? That was originally going to be a native application but Apple blocked it, leaving Safari as the only option for Latitude users.

What’s funny about this is that Google also has a web based app for Google Voice that works on the iPhone, it isn’t as nice as the native app would be but it is at least an option.

The argument used for AT&T wanting the app blocked is that it replaces all of the phone functionality from the device. But, it doesn’t. The way Google Voice routes calls is that you punch in a number and Google Voice calls both you and the person you want to call, this means that you are still using your AT&T minutes when you use Google Voice. Long distance is often free on AT&T accounts and although international rates are cheaper when using Google Voice, there are already a bunch of services set up for calling international numbers at lower rates.

Many people complaining about the rejection of Google Voice are more upset about Apple’s policies than they are about being able to use Google Voice more seamlessly. It is silly that Apple would reject this application and I would love for someone to get the the bottom of this issue to find out exactly why it was rejected and who to blame. But, I don’t think that it is the governments job to do so. Instead it should be done by journalists. The same journalists that have been wasting their time complaining about the rejection should have been spending their time finding answers.

The idea that the government is going to get involved in a companies decisions regarding what applications are allowed on their phone, when the developers have agreed to the terms of service is just too overly involved and would undermine the contract between Apple and the developers. But, if a developer thinks that the removal of their application didn’t adhere to Apple’s own terms of service than they could take legal action.

This rejection is just one of many and I’m sure we will eventually know what all happened, I just hope it doesn’t take too long.

Update 8/7/09: David Pogue reporting for the New York Times writes:

Already, Google says it is readying a replacement for the Google Voice app that will offer exactly the same features as the rejected app—except that it will take the form of a specialized, iPhone-shaped Web page. For all intents and purposes, it will behave exactly the same as the app would have; you can even install it as an icon on your Home screen.

Update 8/10/09: Adding more fuel to the Apple-Google fire, a former Google employee “with knowledge of such matters” has told TechCrunch that Apple and Google “had an agreement not to hire away each other’s workers.”

Update 8/21/09: It seems these type of secret non-employee-poaching agreements aren’t that uncommon with Apple. Bloomberg is reporting that Apple offered a similar agreement to Palm but Ed Colligan rejected the proposal.

Update 9/10/09: PreCentral reports that Palm has rejected their first application from their App Catalog and The Official Palm Blog announces that they have approved a Google Voice application.