Apple 2.0

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Group asks FCC to probe iPhone Skype restrictions

April 3, 2009: 12:12 PM ET

skype-flash-on-iphoneIt didn't take long for Skype's free application for Apple's (AAPL) iPhone to climb to the top of the App Store bestseller list -- nor for net neutrality advocates to cry foul over the restrictions placed on its use.

In the first two days after its release, the iPhone Skype app has been downloaded more than a million times -- about six downloads per second, according to Skype's official blog.

The application allows iPhone and iPod touch owners to make free and low-cost international calls over Wi-Fi networks. But in deference to AT&T (T), the iPhone's exclusive carrier in the U.S. market, Apple blocks Skype calls made over AT&T's cellular networks. That makes Skype useless for telephony when it's out of range of a Wi-Fi network.

And that's what has the open-Internet advocacy group Free Press crying foul. Arguing that the airwaves should be treated by the same common carrier standards applied to telephone wires, it has asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether Apple and AT&T have violated federal rules.

According to the Wall Street Journal, such a request might get a more sympathetic hearing from the new administration that it would from the old. As a candidate, President Obama expressed support for the principles of net neutrality, and his choice for FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, is said to have helped Obama craft his position on the matter. (link)

AT&T has declined to comment, and since Apple never comments, it didn't either.

See also: Skype by the numbers

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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