FCC Google Voice Probe: Ask, AT&T, and It Shall Be Given Unto You

Published on October 9, 2009
by John Paczkowski

googvoice-150x150Well, look at that: Google’s Google Voice service has inspired another Federal Communications Commission probe. Days after a group of House members, echoing a call first made by AT&T (T) in September, asked the FCC to investigate Google Voice, the Commission obliged, sending a letter of inquiry to the company.

“Recent reports indicate that Google’s Google Voice service restricts calling from consumers to certain rural communities,” the FCC wrote. “We are interested in gathering facts that can provide a more complete understanding of this situation.”

Though Google (GOOG) has until Oct. 28 to file a formal response, the search giant was quick to thump the tub in its defense on its Public Policy Blog. There, Rick Whitt, the company’s telecom and media counsel, argued again that Google Voice is not a traditional phone service and should not be regulated like one.

“Google Voice is not intended to be a replacement for traditional phone service–in fact, you need an existing land or wireless line in order to use it. Importantly, users are still able to make outbound calls on any other phone device,” Whitt wrote. “…AT&T apparently now wants web applications–from Skype to Google Voice–to be treated the same way as traditional phone services. Their approach is what a former FCC chairman has called ‘regulatory capitalism,’ the practice of using regulation to block or slow down innovation. And despite AT&T’s lobbying efforts, this issue has nothing to do with network neutrality or rural America. This is about outdated carrier compensation rules that are fundamentally broken and in need of repair by the FCC.”

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