- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Google Inc.’s Voice calling application has won approval to be on the iPhone after more than a year of haggling with Apple Inc.

The breakthrough announced Tuesday resolves a stand-off that triggered a Federal Communications Commission inquiry into whether Apple and AT&T Inc., the iPhone’s exclusive U.S. service provider, were trying to stifle competition by keeping the app off the popular device.

Google Voice lets people sign up for a new phone number, then route incoming calls out to cell, office or home phones. It also lets users place calls, offering steep discounts on international traffic, and includes voice mail. The free app already has been available for Blackberry phones and devices running on Google’s Android operating system.

Google submitted the app to Apple about 16 months ago. In January, while waiting for approval, Google revamped its mobile website to make it easier to use the Voice app on the iPhone. Now the free app can be installed on the device.

Apple’s decision to finally accept the application comes more than a year after the FCC sent letters to Google, Apple and AT&T asking why Google Voice had not been approved for the iPhone. In its response at the time, Apple said it was blocking the app because it duplicated some of the iPhone’s built-in features.

The company would not comment Tuesday on why it has changed its mind. Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said only that “the Google Voice app was resubmitted, reviewed and approved and it now joins the more than 300,000 apps currently available on the App Store.”

In its response to the FCC last year, AT&T said the decision to block the app was made entirely by Apple. But the carrier also revealed that under its agreement with Apple, it restricted use of Internet calling services on the iPhone _ allowing such calls only over Wi-Fi connections. Those connections generally have limited mobility and therefore present less of a competitive threat to AT&T’s core wireless calling business.

AT&T later backed down and started allowing iPhone owners to use Internet calling services on its 3G network.

While the tussle over the Google Voice app appears to be resolved, policymakers at the FCC and in Congress continue to argue over whether broadband providers should be prohibited from blocking certain applications or discriminating against certain types of data flowing over their networks. One major sticking point in the debate is whether such “network neutrality” rules should apply to wireless networks.


Joelle Tessler reported from Washington.

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