AT & T fires another salvo over Google Voice
AT&T is stepping up its battle with Google over the Google Voice app, filing a letter with the Federal Communications Commission yesterday accusing the Internet search giant of blocking calls to a convent of Benedictine nuns and a health clinic, among others.
Recent test calls performed by AT&T using Google Voice showed the app appeared to be blocking all numbers in various rural exchanges, not just those associated with adult sex chat lines, according to the filing.
In the l3-page filing, AT&T argues that Google Voice is “far more than just a software application.” Rather, it uses telecommunications to transmit voice calls between end users and thus constitutes “interstate and foreign communications by wire or radio” under the Communications Act.
Earlier this year, Google admitted to blocking a free text messaging application that “harnesses its Google Talk chat program to provide free text-messaging service” after the application became popular among end users, the filing states. AT&T says that shows Google acted in its own economic self-interest to block what it considered to be a free-riding competitor.
Last Friday, the FCC sent a letter to Google asking for more information about how the Google Voice application works and how Google identifies the phone numbers to which it restricts calls.
Google’s telecom and media counsel, Richard Whitt, on Friday posted a blog saying the reason Google restricts calls to certain local phone carriers’ numbers is connected to “exorbitant termination rates” for calls and the connection to adult sex chat lines and “free” conference calling centers that are used to drive high volumes of traffic.
Both sides are calling one another hypocritical. Google says AT&T’s complaints are hypocritical given that in the past, the phone company has asked the FCC for permission to block the same types of calls in rural areas. Meanwhile, AT&T argues that Google appears “oblivious” to the hypocrisy of its net neutrality advocacy relative to its own conduct.
Google argues the issue has nothing to do with network neutrality or rural America but is about outdated carrier compensation rules.