Apple, AT&T and Platform Control

There has been a lot of stink about Apple’s recent decision to deny Google’s official Google Voice app, and the FCC’s subsequent decision to investigate. Apple’s inability to provide consistent guidelines for App approval has been immensely frustrating for both developers and users alike. So much so, that some developer users are simply giving up on the platform altogether.

I’m a firm believer in Open Platforms. It’s why I’m so interested in Android (even though I’m really frustrated with one particular decision from Google regarding the Android Market). However, while I dislike closed platforms, I believe that Apple should be free to create them. Now, Apple’s tendency toward closed platforms in their consumer electronics has turned me off of their computers as well. And I’m not the only one, Cory Doctorow gave an interview to Linux Journal last year where he talked about leaving Apple because of this.

I won’t argue with the fact that the iPhone has a really clean interface, and the user experience model is pretty good. However, I won’t buy one, because Apple maintains such a high level of control. But, since they are controlling the hardware and the software, I don’t have a problem with that. I’m sure they’ll drive their customers to other, more open (though perhaps not quite as good) platforms.

While I don’t begrudge Apple their control, there have been allegations that AT&T was responsible for the app being pulled, and it’s only sensible that AT&T was responsible for the pulling of data tethering apps, which would have allowed you to use iPhone’s data plan from your computer. This, is simply unacceptable to me.

AT&T (of which I am a customer) should not be discriminating. I’ve paid for data? I should be able to do what I want with that data plan, including tethering to my computer, VOIP, or text messages over free services. The telecommunications network is infrastructure, same as electric and water, and it needs to be treated as such. It should be non-discriminatory, and far, far cheaper than it is. To me, this is really the core argument around network neutrality. I believe in network neutrality because I believe that telecommunications has become infrastructure, and it needs to be treated as such, and it’s not.

If the FCC is going to take action against anyone in this mess, I hope they limit it to AT&T, because as the network provider, they’re the ones who’s position is the most far reaching and dangerous. Not to say that Apple shouldn’t be watched. Their position on unlocking is dangerous as well, for all the reasons large portions of the DMCA are frightening.

It’s really unfortunate that the FCC is feeling the need to get involved in this situation, and whatever they do in this situation stands to have far reaching effects. Some outcomes could be good, others, really bad. So, I’m going to be nervously watching this situation.