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Friday, August 21, 2009, 04:55 am PT (07:55 am ET)

Google to join Apple, AT&T in FCC hot seat

While Apple and AT&T have long been seen as the suspects in a Federal Communications Probe into the blocking of Google Voice from the App Store, Google, rather than playing the role of victim, may also be under fire after each company files comments Friday.

A new report from USA Today states that Apple, AT&T and Google are all soon expected to explain to the FCC their role in the ongoing Google Voice saga. The government began looking into the matter after an application that accessed Google's free telephony service was blocked from use on the iPhone. But the report also notes that Google has engaged in similar practices with its Android mobile phone platform, allegedly preventing a full-featured Skype application, for Internet-based phone calls.

"Android users get Skype Lite, a watered-down version of the original that routes calls over traditional phone networks — not the Internet," the report states. "As a result, long-distance calls are still cheap or free, but cellphone minutes are gobbled up every time a Skype Lite call is made."

By comparison, Apple and AT&T allow a Skype application on the iPhone App Store. However, that program only allows calling via Wi-Fi, and 3G access for phone calls is blocked.

"Most 3G networks should support Skype presence and chat," Skype's official iPhone Web site states. "However, Skype calling is not possible via the iPhone. Please note that data usage costs apply for using Skype over 3G mobile networks, so we recommend an unlimited data plan."

Skype told USA Today that Android does not support a full-featured version of Skype. And Google admitted it blocks VOIP connections at the request of "individual operators," without naming T-Mobile, the only U.S. carrier for Android at the moment. However, a T-Mobile representative denied that the company has requested Google to block Skype. Like Apple, Google must describe its process for reviewing and approving applications for the FCC. Those filings are expected Friday.

Google plans to offer a full-featured, browser-based version of its Google Voice application on the iPhone in the near future. And the Android maker claims the "latest version" of its mobile operating system would support VOIP, but no applications have been submitted.