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FCC starting cell inquiry with Apple, AT&T focus

updated 10:25 am EDT, Fri August 21, 2009

FCC Formal Cell Inquiry

The FCC is due to launch formal investigations into cellular industry practices in the next few days that could put Apple and AT&T in the crosshairs, according to the timetable for the government body (registration required). Its August 27th meeting will start multiple inquiries that include questions of competition and whether the industry is holding back technological advancement. The agency's checks are also likely to include questions over the legality of long-term exclusivity for handsets like Apple's deal with AT&T for the iPhone, which has been criticized for artificially limiting carrier choices and triggering network congestion problems.

Fees should also be a concern, including whether many of the service fees are actually necessary. Some critics have noted that fees have often been portrayed as government-related but are often strictly private and often aren't included in the advertised rates, masking the true cost of service.

The FCC's search is expected to unofficially start today, when Apple and AT&T are expected to submit their official, initial responses to questions over the reasons behind the rejection of Google Voice for iPhone from the App Store. Letters from the government have asked the two companies to explain their involvement and help the FCC determine whether Google's client was unfairly excluded from an official release to stifle competition. Google has also been asked but isn't so far required to provide a respondse.

The app's exclusion is suspected as a possible anti-competitive move by Apple, AT&T or both to force customers to use AT&T's cellular minutes and messaging. While VoIP apps like Skype have been excluded from AT&T's 3G network due to bandwidth and latency concerns, Google Voice still relies on the voice network to provide cheap texts and long-distance calls as well as to give inbound callers a single number that will reach all of a Google Voice subscriber's phones. AT&T has denied having any say in the App Store process but is known to have neutered SlingPlayer for iPhone by preventing the finished US version from working over 3G.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. stevesnj

    Mac Elite

    Joined: Apr 2003


    Where do I complain?

    I want to complain about these and other issues like HUGE delay in MMS which is AT&T's fault. In a sense I am paying for a limited texting service(MMS) when other phone users on AT&T get this at the same rate with the MMS feature. Shouldn't texting for iPhone users be discounted until MMS is rolled out? Also why is service sooo bad? Sure its available in more places but its horrible service. Nary a call goes thru that doesn't sound bad or broken up. AT&T says its hardware and Apple says it's the service provider. We are at the mercy of those that charge $100 for using air.

  1. jpellino

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999



    I guess in an industry fraught with false starts, kludges and technological roadblocks, success is an alien virus that needs killing.

  1. JulesLt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2005



    The irony is that it wasn't until the iPhone arrived that people realised how 'behind' the US phone market was, technologically.

    (Consider that it was the lack of 3G support, not poor 3G support, that held the device back in non-US territories. Although our 3G networks are just as bad).

    The problem, I think, is a business model that is more like gym membership - one that encourages you into setting up a contract, and where the focus is on getting customers into a contract - rather than one based around competing on selling a service.

  1. LouZer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2000


    Re: Where do I complain?

    To the FCC. They're the ones in charge of all things radio.

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