Lawmakers Ask FCC to Probe Google Voice
Should Google be able to offer voice services unfettered by regulations that apply to broadband carriers simply because Google Voice is a free Internet application? AT&T certainly doesn’t think so, and it seems at least a few Congressional representatives agree.
Yesterday, A group of House members from rural districts called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Google’s practice of blocking calls to numbers that use rural exchanges to charge inflated prices–something regulation prevents traditional telecom carriers from doing.
In their letter to the FCC, the lawmakers–among them Reps. Steve Buyer (R., Ind.), Charlie Melancon (D., La.), Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) and John Barrow (D., Ga.)–claim that rural consumers will be harmed if Google is allowed to “evade compliance with important principles of access and competition.”
“We understand Google has asserted Google Voice is not a ‘traditional’ telephone service–despite its use of 10-digit telephone numbers and its ability to connect calls between telephones through a local exchange carrier,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Instead, Google maintains it ought to be allowed to block calls to rural telephone exchanges–a position we find ill conceived and unfair to our rural constituents.”
This, of course, is pretty much what AT&T (T) said in September when it slagged 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.” Google, however, insists those rules don’t apply in its case.
“The FCC’s open Internet principles apply only to the behavior of broadband carriers–not the creators of Web-based software applications,” Google telecom counsel Richard Whitt wrote in response to AT&T’s complaint. “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.”