Google to AT&T: "Noisome Trumpeter"? Takes One to Know One.
Google is violating the Net neutrality principles it so strongly advocates–according to AT&T, anyway. In a letter to the head of the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau Friday (see below for full text), the telephone company described Google (GOOG) as “one of the most noisome trumpeters of so-called net-neutrality” and asked the FCC to order it to “play by the same rules as its competitors.” (As folks are noting in the comments below, AT&T, by describing Google as “noisome” is either using the word incorrectly or being extraordinarily honest about it’s opinion of the company)
Seems AT&T (T) feels that Google’s Google Voice Internet call-forwarding service violates federal rules designed to ensure that phone companies connect all calls. From the company’s letter:
Numerous press reports indicate that Google is systematically blocking telephone calls from consumers that use Google Voice to call telephone numbers in certain rural communities. By blocking these calls, Google is able to reduce its access expenses. Other providers, including those with which Google Voice competes, are banned from call blocking because in June 2007, the Wireline Competition Bureau emphatically declared that all carriers are prohibited from pursuing “self help actions such as call blocking.” The Bureau expressed concern that call blocking “may degrade the reliability of the nation’s telecommunications network.” Google Voice thus has claimed for itself a significant advantage over providers offering competing services. Google casually dismisses the Bureau’s Order, claiming that Google Voice “isn’t a traditional phone service and shouldn’t be regulated like other common carriers.” But in reality, “Google Voice” appears to be nothing more than a creatively packaged assortment of services that are already quite familiar to the Commission….
[The FCC] cannot, through inaction or otherwise, give Google a special privilege to play by its own rules while the rest of the industry, including those who compete with Google, must instead adhere to [FCC] regulations.
AT&T’s letter comes just days after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed six Net neutrality regulations that will apply to both wireline and wireless platforms. Interestingly, it also follows an FCC investigation into the rejection/delay of Google Voice for the iPhone.
Google’s responded to AT&T’s letter in a post to the company blog, pointing out the differences between Google Voice and traditional phone service and questioning AT&T’s motives for appealing to the FCC.
“AT&T is trying to make this about Google’s support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn’t fly,” Richard Whitt, the company’s Washington telecom and media counsel, wrote. “The FCC’s open Internet principles apply only to the behavior of broadband carriers–not the creators of Web-based software applications. Even though the FCC does not have jurisdiction over how software applications function, AT&T apparently wants to use the regulatory process to undermine Web-based competition and innovation.”