updated 04:00 pm EDT, Thu October 8, 2009
FCC would check Google Voice fairness
Multiple Democrats and Republicans yesterday sent a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski asking for a formal investigation into the legality of restrictions on Google Voice. The request follows a similarly worded AT&T letter and claims that Google is unfairly refusing to connect calls made over its service to some rural addresses and should be scrutinized to determine the actual nature of its service and potentially force a change in behavior.
Google has previously said that its service doesn't count as traditional phone service and isn't subject to the same rules as AT&T. Voice uses a member's existing phone plan to make a connection to its own servers, which then routes the call through a special Google Voice number and puts most of the call on VoIP until it has to return to the phone network to complete the call. The technique can save customers money on long distance calls but, in the case of those rural areas, can be expensive for Google to process.
AT&T's move and the subsequent response from politicians is believed an attempt to shift the argument towards itself following net neutrality proposals that would prevent AT&T from discriminating against specific apps or data traffic on its cellular network. Although Google's service wouldn't be subject to the same rules, AT&T has tried to equate Google Voice's limitations with violations of net neutrality and argued that it needed a level playing field.