FCC's more proactive stance: Should we cheer or worry?

FCC's more proactive stance: Should we cheer or worry?

Summary: The Federal Communications Commission is being way progressive. Just days after Apple shot down Google Voice related apps, the FCC pounced with a bevy of questions for Apple, AT&T and Google.

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The Federal Communications Commission is being way progressive. Just days after Apple shot down Google Voice related apps, the FCC pounced with a bevy of questions for Apple, AT&T and Google.

The FCC sent letters to all parties involved seeking information. For Apple, the FCC wants to know the process behind the company's rejection of Google Voice apps. It also wants to know whether Apple acted alone or consulted with AT&T. The FCC also wants to delve into AT&T's say in Apple app approval, customer usage limits and other details. The FCC also wants to know the Apple app approval process from the Google perspective.

It's unheard of for the FCC to move this quickly. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is a techie and a Silicon Valley veteran. It shows. The Apple-AT&T-Google Voice flap was barely a few days old before the FCC pounced.

Should we be cheering or worried?

On the cheering side of the ledger, the FCC will turn up some answers on the topic. My hunch is that the FCC will find a Google-Apple rift. AT&T wasn't shy about getting its point of view out there. The company, which has been the designated whipping boy during the early days of this saga, said in a statement:

AT&T does not manage or approve applications for the App Store. We have received the letter and will, of course, respond to it.

So what happened? We don't know yet, but the usually secretive Apple can't be happy with the intrusion. If the FCC only sheds light on the app approval process it will be a worthwhile effort.

But then there's the other side of the equation. The one that can make you squirm. The FCC is looking into everything from app approval to exclusive deals between carriers and device makers. At some point, the FCC meddles in free markets. It will micromanage. For now, the FCC's moves require a wait-and-see approach, but it's clear there's a new sheriff in town and he isn't going to be shy about probing all aspects of the wireless business. Stay tuned to see how this turns out.

Topics: Apple, Government, Government US

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44 comments
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  • Regulation is not micromanagement

    "At some point, the FCC meddles in free markets. It will micromanage."

    Clearly you think more about business than you do about government. Or maybe you're just conservative, politically, and ideological to a fault.

    This is about the public's interest in fostering competition and innovation. The public also has an interest in keeping the roads safe to drive on, but when the police arrest a drunk driver who had caused a 10 car pile-up, you don't blog about how they're micromanaging us as drivers.
    syd02
    • I agree with everything except your analogy

      People don't die when Apple blocks third party apps. Financial harm is caused, but that's hardly the same thing.
      Michael Kelly
      • Okay, try a different analogy

        Standard Oil
        fjpoblam
      • Ok, agreed...

        I was kind of uncomfortable with making an analogy at all, but wanted to get at this: some people think that a regulatory framework is just government, working on behalf of the public the way government always works on behalf of the public, and other (alienated) people see it as an intrusion into private matters. The question of whether the FCC has any legitimate role in regulating ANYTHING is apparently still up for debate, but only between ideological conservatives and the rest of us.
        syd02
    • I Agree

      100%
      yobtaf
    • It obviously is in this case

      What makes it public interest that most people don't even own an iPhone and could care even less what's running in it? And it's not like iPhone is the only mobile phone out there. If you don't like it, feel free to switch. ATT / Apple are not stripping your right to do it, are they? Market has already offered enough alternatives, and therefore we don't need FCC getting into this.

      If only your liberal kinda mindset could understand these meddling government programs are wasting tax payers' money, and how much budget deficit we could reduce if we cut them off, WHICH IS OF PUBLIC INTEREST INDEED.
      LBiege
      • RE: It obviously is in this case

        Well said!
        jbaviera9
  • Depends on what they regulate

    If they're chasing after stations because a bit of boob is
    shown then no - I don't think it is a good thing. If you
    don't like what is on, change the channel. If you find it
    offensive for your children to watch (or you to watch) then
    take control and moderate what your children can and
    can't watch. Stop thinking that it is your role to be parents
    for everyone elses kids.

    If a stronger FCC means, however, opening up the iPhone
    by forcing them to sell unlocked versions, and allow people
    to install third party applications without being funnelled
    through the app store - then that is a good thing.

    What are the chances though that the FCC will be more
    concerned about boobs than ensuring a competitive and
    vibrant marketplace? pretty high I'd say given their past
    behaviour
    Macintoshtoffy
  • RE: FCC's more proactive stance: Should we cheer or worry?

    We, the people, own those airwaves AT&T and Apple use. They were licensed, not sold, to be used for the public good. That gives the government, acting in our interests, every right and responsibility to oversee what is happening with our airwaves.

    Mr. Fusion
    • You hit the nail on the head with that one ...

      We the people, do indeed own the airwaves, not Apple or AT&T.

      As was clearly demonstrated with the credit meltdown and the current bad economy, government regulation is necessary.

      It's just a matter of balance. Of course nobody wants too much regulation. But too little regulation is also bad.

      Too much regulation can suffocate business. Too little regulation leads to monopolies, no competition, no innovation, and no consumer protection.

      Apple right now is the arrogant, monopolistic, consumer hostile bully (along with their pals the RIAA and it's members).

      The government needs to slap them down to protect the consumer.

      But only so far.
      super_J
    • CC's more proactive stance: Should we cheer or worry?

      I completely agree. We the people should apply our powers.
      OKWHEN
  • That they are making quick inquiries is a very good thing

    It will be how they react once the facts are known that will decide whether or not they are going overboard. But lets wait until we know the facts and see how the FCC ultimately reacts before we judge their actions.
    Michael Kelly
  • RE: FCC's more proactive stance: Should we cheer or worry?

    Hopefully, this will be seen as a watershed moment, when the FCC again looks out for consumer interests, than for business interests.
    CareerTeacher
  • RE: FCC's more proactive stance: Should we cheer or worry?

    Do you mean a Google-Apple rifT? I can't make sense of that sentence otherwise.
    Thom Payne
  • RE: FCC's more proactive stance: Should we cheer or worry?

    The exclusivity deals trump competition and screws
    consumers. Everybody is doing it, but Apple/AT&T have
    abused it with the iPhone to levels unheard of. The FCC must
    do something about this, and get the U.S. back to
    competitive international standards.
    YouAreSuperWrong
  • Proactive, my a__!!!

    You think that Google didn't push the FCC to investigate Apple
    and ATT because their precious app was kaboshed? Don't kid
    yourself!
    Userama
    • It wasn't even their app in question, it just used their technology.

      You should do the homework behind this before commenting.
      Metronome49
  • Unbridled capitalism has worked so well for us, no?

    Capitalism works best when the playing field is level and there are regulations to facilitate consumer confidence. The FCC under Bush (and Clinton for that matter) only looked out for a set of narrow interests, acting more as an advocate of certain companies than as a regulatory watchdog. I hope that has changed a little.
    terry flores
    • HERE HERE!

      destruction of regulations = Hurricane Katrina disaster... = Mortgage crisis that ruined the economy... = etc., etc.
      Metronome49
      • Nonsense!

        Katrina was a disaster that nobody, not the feds and not the state or local government were equipped to handle. If anything, it was the local governments, especially the New Orleans government that was especially delinquent in carrying out their evacuations and was just as derelict in the reinforcements of the levies which overflowed.

        The mortgage crisis was something that the government was in fact responsible for creating, especially on the democratic party's side of government. The Community Reinvestment Act, passed by Carter and the democratic congress, was the main culprit. Then, Clinton got the government further involved by passing laws that would penalize banks if they didn't comply with the CRA. That's what got us into the mortgage meltdown.

        It' was government intrusion into the markets that ruined the economy. It wasn't lack of regulation and in fact, it was government over-regulation that created the mortgage crisis and with that, the whole economic system to break down.
        adornoe