AT&T, Google: Nuns on the Run
In the rhetorical battle over net neutrality, Google may have regulatory capitalism with which to bludgeon and batter AT&T, but AT&T (T) has Benedictine nuns, an entire convent of them.
In a 13-page letter to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, the carrier again said that Google should play by the same rules as its telecom competitors. AT&T also took issue with the search giant’s claim that Google Voice restricts calls to certain rural areas to avoid the so-called traffic pumpers that route calls there to drive up charges.
“Contrary to the public pronouncements of Google and its allies, Google’s rural call blocking regime is not limited to Google simply blocking calls to ‘adult sex chat lines’ and ‘free’ conference calling services to avoid high access charges,” wrote AT&T’s senior vice president, Bob Quinn, in the letter to the FCC’s wireline bureau. “In fact, Google is blocking calls to, among others, an ambulance service, church, bank, law firm, automobile dealer, day spa, orchard, health clinic, tax preparation service, community center, eye doctor, tribal community college, school, residential consumers, a convent of Benedictine nuns, and the campaign office of a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”
My God. Google, the company whose business philosophy proudly proclaims “you can make money without doing evil,” blocking calls to small businesses? To Benedictine nuns? Don’t be evil?
Don’t be evil, my ass.
“We can now see the power of Internet-based applications providers to act as gatekeepers who can threaten the ‘free and open’ Internet,” Quinn continues. “Google’s double standard for ‘openness’–where Google does what it wants while other providers are subject to Commission regulations–is plainly inconsistent with the goal of preserving a ‘free and open’ Internet ecosystem.”
That established, Quinn goes in for the kill, arguing that the FCC should regulate the search giant not just on the wires, but on the Web as well.
“Google’s call blocking begs an even more important question that the Commission must consider as it evaluates whether to adopt rules regarding Internet openness,” he writes. “If the Commission is going to be a ‘smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet,’ then shouldn’t its ‘beat’ necessarily cover the entire Internet neighborhood, including Google? Indeed, if the Commission cannot stop Google from blocking disfavored telephone calls as Google contends, then how could the Commission ever stop Google from also blocking disfavored websites from appearing in the results of its search engine; or prohibit Google from blocking access to applications that compete with its own email, text messaging, cloud computing and other services; or otherwise prevent Google from abusing the gatekeeper control it wields over the Internet?”
An interesting question. And one for which Google (GOOG) is presumably already preparing a long-winded answer. This is far from over yet, and we’ll continue to go round and round until the FCC puts a stop to it.