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It's the Feds! FCC quizzes Apple, AT&T and Google about Google Voice apps

Joachim Bean

Earlier today, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) sent out letters to Apple, AT&T and Google, readable here [FCC's letter to Apple, to AT&T & to Google] asking each company about its involvement in the Google Voice app rejections. The agency is asking Apple to explain why the Google app was rejected and the third-party apps removed, if any VoIP apps have been approved, and whether there are general rules and regulations covering application approvals (something many developers would also love to know).

It's worth noting that none of the Google Voice apps are VoIP (voice over IP) applications in the traditional sense, as they rely on the cellular carrier's voice network to handle calls, so it's not clear if the FCC understands this or if the agency is heading down a blind alley on this particular topic.

To Google, the letter asks if any other Google apps have been accepted in the store (we know there are a few), whether Apple explains the rejection process or the reasoning behind the treatment of Google Latitude, if there are other ways to use Google Voice on the iPhone (again, a somewhat naive question, as the service works fine via touchtone commands and Mobile Safari), and lastly and most intriguingly, what the app approval process is for Android applications (should be a short answer: "C'mon in, the water's fine!").

Finally, the agency is asking AT&T how the carrier was consulted on this decision, if any VoIP applications are running on their network (again, missing the point, since GV ≠ VoIP -- more relevant that there are BlackBerry apps for Google Voice that are happily on AT&T handsets), and whether AT&T can provide a list of rejected applications on the store while detailing the role it plays in approving possible 3G-enabled services like Sling.

The FCC has given the three companies until August 21 to respond to their letters; while the overall scope of the questions betrays quite a bit of agency unfamiliarity with the workings of the Google Voice service and the App Store, any movement toward openness and clear answers is positive. Hopefully, these responses will offer some insight into the story of this whole mess that has given everyone such indigestion over the past week.

[via Engadget, links to FCC via BusinessWeek]

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