Apple, AT&T, and Google‘s responses to the FCC inquiry have received plenty of coverage. So we’re not going to rehash those letters line by line. However, I did want to focus on the Net Neutrality angle. Perhaps, the crux of the matter. And while I may not know the legal standards or thresholds for collusion and anti-competitive practices, as a frustrated customer of both AT&T and Apple, that’s exactly the perception I’m left with.
Apple says that they make final decisions on all App Store approvals. Except when AT&T has “expressed concerns.” Or when bound by the conditions of their contract with AT&T.
The parties state that VoIP apps (like Skype) are blocked from AT&T’s data network to protect the pipe. But they’ve had no problems approving music streaming services, which could actually consume more bandwidth than a VoIP app and possibly for longer periods of time. Related, AT&T uses language to prevent customers from redirecting a TV signal to a mobile handset. Which is why Slingbox iPhone client has been crippled/restricted to WiFi usage. Yet AT&T upsells mobile TV video services (starting at $15/month) on many handsets and the iPhone facilitates baseball game video streaming (also for a fee). Content which is obviously destined for TV, given the simulcast commercial breaks of silence.
So I’m calling BS on their FCC responses. I pay $30/month for data access. And it seems to me that Apple and AT&T are collaboratively and selectively blocking apps that could compete with their own service offerings. The app that triggered this investigation isn’t even a “bandwidth hog” and doesn’t provide VoIP connectivity. However, it does allow me to make phone calls at better rates than AT&T offers (with free outbound SMS). Bottom line: If AT&T (and Apple) were solely concerned with protecting their network, they’d institute bandwidth caps and/or maximum streaming bitrates/resolutions. But, as it stands, the wireless industry is protecting their antiquated business model and needs to grow up evolve. We customers are ready. These two providers clearly aren’t.