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FCC commissioner wants to investigate Apple over Beeper Mini discontinuation

Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr is asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Apple’s response to Beeper Mini, the app that briefly brought iMessage to Android. At the State of the Net conference on Monday, Carr said the FCC should examine whether Apple’s decision “complies with the FCC Part 14 rules” regarding accommodating users with disabilities.

Beeper Mini was launched last year, giving Android users access to iMessage features, including blue message bubbles and the ability to send high-quality photos and videos. However, Apple quickly blocked Beeper Mini users and continued to shut down attempts to make the app work, leading its developers to give up.

The FCC Part 14 rules outline the requirements that “advanced communications services,” such as iMessage, must meet to ensure they are accessible. By discontinuing the Beeper Mini, Carr says Apple could be violating the FCC’s rule that vendors “shall not install any network features, functions, or capabilities that impair accessibility or usability.” He says the low contrast of the green bubbles “makes it difficult for people who are visually impaired or have difficulty seeing to perceive these messages.”

“Apple has made changes to iMessage to disable the Beeper Mini functionality,” Carr said. “The FCC should launch an investigation to determine whether Apple’s decision to degrade the Beeper Mini functionality it provided, which again promoted accessibility and usability, was an action that violated FCC rules.” The edge contacted FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to see if the agency planned to investigate, but did not immediately receive a response.

It seems, however, that Carr is concerned about more than just the Beeper Mini debacle. He also mentioned Apple’s impact on the augmented and virtual reality spaces and criticized the walled garden Apple puts in place around its products and services. “I think there will be potentially negative consequences if Apple perpetuates a world in which it treats its own proprietary technologies in a unique way and degrades the performance of those of its competitors,” Carr said.

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