updated 05:45 pm EDT, Fri September 25, 2009
AT&T says Google Voice call blocks unfair
AT&T on Friday accused Google of running against net neutrality principles with its Google Voice service. A letter sent to the FCC by the carrier claims that the service would technically violate the terms of the FCC's existing Internet Policy Statement, as well as proposed formal rules, as it deliberately blocks calls made through the phone gateway to certain rural numbers to save Google money. That unfairly discriminates against AT&T and other conventional carriers that are required to allow those calls, the message read.
Google in response has insisted that it's not subject to the regulation as its service is based online and doesn't behave like a traditional phone network. Unlike AT&T or even VoIP services like Skype, Google Voice is primarily a routing service that can feed incoming or outgoing calls through a central number obtained through Google. That number then uses an Internet connection to complete most of the call and is usually much less expensive for the user than regular calls that often have to use conventional phone networks for the entire distance.
The accusation potentially acts as a bargaining chip for AT&T, which along with other telecom firms has voiced opposition to the FCC expanding the Policy Statement to become a rule and include wireless service under that rule. As the regulation would bar AT&T from blocking VoIP and other services for competitive reasons, pressing the FCC to monitor Google Voice would prevent some younger technology from gaining a potentially unfair advantage. AT&T has already made clear that it doesn't consider Google Voice a VoIP technique and that its objection focuses on phone number access rather than mobile apps.
FCC officials have so far only said they are reading the letter.