AT&T Didn't Have Role In Apple's Consideration of Google Voice App

Company said it has had specific discussion with Apple about a few applications that could create network congestion

AT&T told the FCC Friday that it "unequivocally" had "no role in Apple’s consideration of Google Voice or related applications," and has no role in deciding what is in the Apple App store. It did say it has had some general, and a few specific, discussions with Apple about a handful applications, particularly when they could create network congestion.

AT&T told the FCC that it had an agreement with Apple that the latter would not affirmatively enable VoIP service over iPhones, saying that one of the assumptions that went into assuming the risk of developing the phone was on the monthly service revenues that could be reducted by enabling VoIP functionality.

That came in response by AT&T Senior Executive VP James Cicconi, to a letter from the FCC asking for information following reports that Apple had pulled the Google Voice application for the iPhone from the store.

The FCC also sent letters to Apple and Google with an Aug. 21 deadline. Google supplied a redacted version, but the redaction included its answer to the key question of what Apple's explanation was for rejecting the application and any correspondence between Google and AT&T or Apple on the subject. For its part, AT&T said it had no correspondence with Google over the issue.

Google asked the FCC for notice if any of the redacted material is requested under FOIA so it can "have the opportunity to oppose grant of the disclosure request."

In the letter, Cicconi pointed out that the Google Voice application could be accessed on the iPhone over AT&T's network, or any Web-enabled device for that matter, directly from the Internet. "AT&T does not block consumers from accessing any lawful website on the Internet," he said. "As a result, any AT&T customer may access and use Google Voice on any web-enabled device operating on AT&T’s network, including the iPhone, by launching the application through their Web browser, without the need to use the Apple App Store."

While AT&T said it does not participate in "day-to-day consideration" of what apps to feature in Apple's store, Cicconi did say it has had discussions involving a "handful of applications" where there were concerns about network congestion.

For example, a proposed MobiTV/CBS application that would deliver live video and audio for NCAA basketball March Madness over Wi-Fi and AT&T's 3G network was evaluated.

They concluded that it could cause "substantial network congestion" and degrade service, particularly near cell cites on college campuses.

MobiTV and CBS modified the app to deliver the live video and audio to Wi-FI connections, but live audio, stills and scores to AT&T's network, Cicconi said.

Asked in the FCC's letter what it knew about other applications that Apple had rejected, Cicconi reiterated that it was not part of that "day-today" loop, but did use the opportunity to make a point about why Apple might be rejecting some apps.

"Based on press reports, however, AT&T understands that certain applications have been rejected for use on the iPhone," he wrote. "In particular, AT&T is aware that Apple has, on occasion, exercised its discretion to remove certain applications from the Apple App Store, such as the 'Baby Shaker' application which trivialized infanticide, and a handful of other applications such as 'Murderdrome,' 'Slasher,' 'Peekababe' and 'iBoobs' that presumably were similarly rejected for offensive content."

A copy of the letter e-mailed to reporters included a statement from Cicconi as well. “We appreciate the opportunity to clear up misconceptions related to an application Google submitted to Apple for inclusion in the Apple App Store. We fully support the FCC’s goal of getting the facts and data necessary to inform its policymaking.“

The commission Aug. 27 plans to open an inquiry into "innovation" in the wireless space, as well as seek more information on wireless competition. The Justice Department is said currently to be surveying the competitive landscape for wireless services as well.