"AT&T does not manage or approve applications for the App Store. We have received the letter and will, of course, respond to it."
That was AT&T's public response to the FCC inquiry on whether or not AT&T had anything to do with Apple nixing all of the Google Voice applications.
Specifically in regard to this questioning:
Did Apple act alone, or in consultation with AT&T, in deciding to reject the Google Voice application and related applications? If the latter, please describe the communications between Apple and AT&T in connection with the decision to reject Google Voice. Are there any contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T that affected Apple's decision in this matter?
Does AT&T have any role in the approval of iPhone applications generally (or in certain cases)? If so, under what circumstances, and what
1 See, e.g., Jenna Wortham, "Even Google is Blocked With Apps for iPhone," New York Times, July 28, 2009.
role does it play? What roles are specified in the contractual provisions between Apple and AT&T (or any non-contractual understandings) regarding the consideration of particular iPhone applications?
It is interesting that AT&T would try to distance itself from the decision to cut Google Apps because they haven't tried to hide their meddeling in the App store decision-making process in the past.
For instance, they took full credit for making Sling a Wifi-only app:
"Slingbox, which would use large amounts of wireless network capacity, could create congestion and potentially prevent other customers from using the network. The application does not run on our 3G wireless network. Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service. We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.
That said, we don't restrict users from going to a Web site that lets them view videos. But what our terms and conditions prohibit is the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to their personal computer or smartphone.
The Slingbox application for the iPhone runs on WiFi. That's good news for AT&T's iPhone 3G customers, who get free WiFi access at our 20,000 owned and operated hot spots in the U.S., including Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, hotels, and airports. AT&T is the industry leader in WiFi."
Steve Jobs also noted in a post show Q&A that making VoIP applications like Skype Wifi-only was at the behest of the carriers. This is another example of AT&T telling Apple what it can and cannot do in the App Store - this time in the voice communications space.
The VoIP issue is exactly what the FCC intends to investigate as it relates to competition in the market. AT&T brushing off their role isn't fooling anyone.