AT&T Complains to FCC That Google Voice Violates Telecom Laws

September 26, 2009

(ChattahBox) — AT&T  (T.N)  is accusing Google Inc  (GOOG.O) of  violating Net neutrality principles, because it blocks certain phone calls on its Google Voice service. Google Voice is an Internet call-forwarding system that allows consumers to sign up for a free phone number that, when called, simultaneously rings all of a consumer’s other phones. Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed new rules requiring operators to open their networks to any legitimate Internet content or service without discrimination. If adopted, the rules would be viewed as a victory for big Internet companies like Google at the potential expense of network operators like AT&T, Verizon Communications, etc.. AT&T the biggest U.S. telephone company, has now retorted, saying that any new “net neutrality” rules imposed by U.S. regulators need to apply to Web companies like Google as much as to phone companies to ensure a level playing field.

In a letter Friday to the head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau, AT&T argued that Google would have an unfair advantage if its Voice service is not subject to the same rules proposed by the FCC on phone operators.

“To the extent ‘net neutrality’ is animated by a concern about ostensible Internet ‘gatekeepers,’ that concern must necessarily apply to application, service, and content providers,” Robert Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president for federal regulations, wrote to the FCC’s Sharon Gillett.

At issue are local phone companies that charge long-distance providers like AT&T, Verizon, or Qwest a fee to access their local landline networks. A 2007 FCC decision banned long-distance providers from call blocking, so these long-distance companies must connect to these local markets if they wish to continue operating.  Meanwhile Google Voice, does not connect to all markets particularly in certain rural areas. That puts it at “a significant advantage over providers offering competing services,” Quinn, wrote to the FCC.  An FCC spokeswoman said the agency had received the letter and was reviewing it, but didn’t have any comment about whether it might investigate.


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