Nutsy government regulation

While everyone is focused on the massive new legislation being passed in Washington, many smaller but important new regulations are being passed by the Democrats and are being imposed by regulators. Here is one question. Why wouldn't AT&T work together with Apple on what programs would be used on the iPhone? Shouldn't Apple have a say over what programs run on its phone? Wired has the government's intervention here.

Federal regulators want to know if AT&T and Apple worked to together to reject mobile apps for Google’s innovative Voice service, sending letters to the companies asking them to explain this incident and the policies behind the secretive and lucrative iPhone App store.

The letters are the first indication that the feds might be interested in mandating openness for Apple’s iPhone store and similar stores run by Sprint, Verizon and even Google. The iPhone store, run through Apple’s iTunes software, is the only way an iPhone user can install third-party applications without voiding the phone’s warranty.

According to the letters, the FCC wants to know the who, what, why and when of the rejection of the Google Voice app for the iPhone. Google Voice, still an invite-only beta program, lets users channel all their calls through a single Google Voice number which offers cheap international calls, free long distance calls, free text messaging and voicemail transcription - though calls through its mobile app still use the minutes on a mobile phone.

The FCC’s new chairman Julius Genachowski made it clear Friday in announcing the letters that he was not pleased by Apple and AT&T’s actions, while leaving wiggle room about what, if anything, the feds would do. . . . .

In addition, the FCC is wanting to investigate why Apple iPhones can't be used everyplace in the country. Hint: Apple made an exclusive deal with ATT, just as Palm made a deal with Sprint and Google made a deal with T-Mobile, and ATT doesn't cover the entire country. AppleInsider has this:

While it surveys exclusive contracts like the relationship between AT&T and Apple, the Federal Communications Commission will also look into concerns that customers in rural areas can't access limited products like the iPhone.

The U.S. government regulatory agency will investigate smaller markets where major wireless carriers like AT&T and Sprint, which carry the iPhone and Palm Pre, respectively, do not provide service, according to Bloomberg.

"There are markets in the country where if you wanted an iPhone, if you wanted a Pre, you just couldn’t get it -- from anyone," said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission."So one question is, is that consistent with broad consumer interests?"

The FCC was asked in June by four U.S. Senators to look into exclusive contracts like the one between AT&T and Apple, or the agreement between Sprint and Palm for the Pre. Genachoswki said his main focus as the head of the FCC is to promote competition in the best interest of consumers. The request came from a petition filed by the Rural Cellular Association, a group of smaller tier II and tier III wireless carriers that provide service to parts of the U.S. where tier I brands like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile do not. . . . .

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