A guest opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this week is getting some attention. In a nutshell, it alleges that AT&T was behind the death of a Google Voice app for the iPhone and suggests that, in a world where data is bigger than voice, that we need a national data policy. (More on that app rejection allegation below)
I won't argue much about the need for a national data policy, largely because I agree that the current systems are flawed and are stifling innovation. Among the suggestions offered by guest columnist Andy Kessler:
- End phone exclusivity so any device works on any network.
- Transition away from "owning" airwaves so that we can share the airwaves much the way we share WiFi, regardless of device.
- End municipal exclusivity deals for cable companies to increase competition and push us into a la carte viewing.
- Encourage faster and faster data connections to our homes and phones, ideally with them doubling every two years.
That's just a quick summary of his suggestions and, while I've been a long proponent of ending mobile phone exclusivity, I also understand that there are some economics that won't permit these sort of changes overnight. When companies invest in technologies, they need to ensure that there are returns on those investments. Without things like exclusive deals to help guarantee those returns, companies will be less likely to make the initial investments, which, in turn, could further stifle innovation.
A very vicious and complex cycle.
As for the rest of the WSJ piece, specifically about AT&T's role in the death of the Google Voice app, I say "hogwash." AT&T has gone on the record saying that it had nothing to do with it. Given the way leaks involving Apple and the iPhone get out there, does anyone think that AT&T would have seriously lied in a written statement?
That aside, it makes no sense from a business standpoint to block that app. Users of that app are using both the data and voice networks to initiate and process that call. AT&T Wireless provides the access to both of those pipelines over the iPhone. Check out my argument in the video below.
- FCC eyes AT&T, Apple rejection of Google Voice apps (full text of letters)
- Forget the iPhone app, Google Voice coming as a Web app
- Google Voice only gets better with launch of mobile app
- Google upgrades GrandCentral, launches Google Voice