AT&T, trying to avoid a FCC dope-slapping, announced that yes, it would allow Skype to make lower cost phone calls on the iPhone. Interestingly, this comes on the heels of Vonage’s iPhone client last week. Regardless of the outcome, don’t expect AT&T to rollover and play dead when it comes to net neutrality.
Allowing Skype and other mobile VoIP apps on iPhone to dial up phone calls on its 3G data network was in some respects inevitable. Pressure from both the FCC and Congress and a Democratic administration (Note to the Republican Party: You know where to get funding for 2010 and 2012, right?), meant either having a long, drag-out, dog-ugly PR fight with enough media floggings on how poor the AT&T’s 3G network already delivered — not exactly a winner when Verizon is looking to spin up LTE ASAP and the exclusives on the iPhone may be going away. Best to simply bite the bullet and keep the focus on more important battles.
Ironically, all those media complaints about poor iPhone/3G service will serve AT&T well when it has to go into FCC and Capital Hill hearings. “We need to have the ability to manage our network,” will cry AT&T executives, “Look at the problems we have now.” Will it quiet angry Congressmen? No. But expect Verizon to smile smugly on the panel.