People keep saying that there’s no court of last resort when Apple rejects an iPhone application. Heck, nobody can even demand that Apple explain its actions. But the one guy who can order even Steve Jobs around is Uncle Sam. And the FCC is now looking into Apple’s refusal to release Google’s Google Voice application on the iPhone App Store. It wants to know why Apple rejected the app, what role AT&T played in the decision, and what the situation has been with other Google apps.
I know I’d like to use the Google Voice app on my iPhone. I know that I believe Apple’s app approval process should be less restrictive and more open. But I’m not a lawyer–and I don’t know whether Apple’s actions to date violate any laws or FCC regulations. Neither does the FCC presumably, which is why it’s written letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google to collect information.
I’m enough of a libertarian that I don’t reflexively want the federal government deciding how Apple should run its application store. But I’m also a believer in competition–and so I think it’s important that we know if AT&T was involved in Google Voice’s rejection, and if so, if the FCC considers that to be acceptable behavior. Telecommunications remains a rather heavily-regulated industry for a reason, after all.
Of course, the happiest possible outcome from all this is obvious: Apple could save itself some potential legal headaches by approving the Google Voice application without being forced to do so. Is there an iPhone owner on the planet who would be displeased with that outcome?
[UPDATE: TechCrunch has published copies of the FCC's letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google.]