updated 05:45 pm EDT, Fri August 21, 2009
ATT Response to FCC on GV
AT&T today issued their promised formal responses to the FCC's inquiry into the rejection of Google Voice on the iPhone. AT&T senior executive VP Jim Cicconi in a statement flatly stated that the carrier had "no role in any decision" of Apple's to deny the software reaching the App Store and specifically denied any contact with Apple regarding the particular app. AT&T also didn't express its opinion on the app in any context, according to the executive.
Importantly, AT&T made clear that it doesn't view Google Voice as a voice-over-IP service and thus that it wouldn't have the detrimental impact on AT&T's voice business that keeps apps like Skype from using 3G for voice calls. Cicconi in a statement tries to mitigate concerns by noting that any iPhone user can still use Google Voice through the less convenient web app.
In the statement, AT&T further mentions that it doesn't restrict native Google Voice apps on other platforms it carries, including BlackBerries. The company goes so far as to tease its future Android phones and implies that, while it doesn't currently use the platform, it would honor the relatively open app submission process for software in Android Market.
The official added that AT&T doesn't "typically" offer input on apps but admitted that the company has had an influence on whether or not apps would reach the store in the past. Pandora's Internet radio app was discussed but was allowed to stream over 3G even from its initial version. For a CBS app that would stream NCAA audio and video feeds, AT&T told Apple it was concerned about network degradation; Apple in turn passed the information along to CBS and partner MobiTV, who modified the app to limit video (but not audio) to Wi-Fi.
Moreover, the response indirectly clarifies AT&T's stance on Sling Media's SlingPlayer app, which had its TV-to-3G streaming forced out by AT&T under contradictory language. Despite selling the iPhone as a smartphone, the company initially claimed it was a computer and therefore that SlingPlayer violated terms of service regarding streaming TV from a computer over its network. AT&T now admits that the primary issue was network capacity and a fear that SlingPlayer's relatively minimal compression, which reduces the resolution but not the frame rate, was likely to cause too many problems on the network. No attempt has been made to explain why BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices don't face this restriction, however.
The statement effectively shifts responsibility entirely to Apple, which in its own response says it mainly has concerns over the privacy of contact data and whether VoIP is involved. Google itself has said that its conversations with Apple regarding Google Voice are confidential but that its app doesn't use VoIP and would provide advantages not possible through a web app, such as directly accessing contacts from the iPhone.