Saturday, November 20, 2010

AT&T Says Google Isn't Playing Fair Nor Being Net Neutral

Just as I thought now AT&T is pushing the FCC to find Google Voice in violation of the Net Neutrality rules. And in some ways both sides have a point.

Google's stand is that since Google Voice is a free service they can't afford to pay to connect with some expensive outlying phones and phone services. And on the surface of it that is a good point. They are offering a "free" service so how can they be expected to pay the high connection charges that many rural phone companies charge?

But as AT&T points out what Google Voice is doing is taking the low hanging fruit by offering a service for "free" that the regulated carriers can't offer.

So is AT&T to be made to stand by as Google Voice grabs a large group of users just because they can offer prices that AT&T can't possible match?

Those are just the kinds of questions that will become more and more common as the internet pits regulated verses non regulated communication service providers against each other.

And there is no easy answer as to force Google Voice to connect to any and all lines would force the service to become a paid service rather than a limited but free service. But to allow Google to offer services that rob a regulated carrier of customers just because they can chose only those customers that cost little to access since they aren't regulated is to allow Google Voice to rob regulated carriers of customers.

It will be interesting how this thorny issue is resolved. And you can bet no matter which side wins with the FCC the other side will fight it in court. So we won’t know the final outcome for some time.

Amplify’d from

AT&T has sent a rather pointed letter to the FCC accusing Google of violating Network Neutrality standards. No, that isn’t a typo. AT&T’s beef is that Google Voice will not connect calls to some numbers that traditional telecoms are required to connect. This is because of so-called “common carrier” laws.

Some rural local telephone carriers charge long distance companies extremely high fees to connect calls to certain numbers on their networks. These are usually numbers for conference call centers, adult chat lines, or party lines. Sneakily, revenues from these connections are shared with the owners of the lines. Google Voice does not connect these calls, and AT&T thinks that isn’t fair.

It is interesting that Google, a company that strongly supports Net Neutrality, is taking this course of action. AT&T seems to want them to be treated like any other telecom, but in Google’s response, they lay out their rationale for why AT&T should shut it.

Google says that first and foremost, Google Voice is a free service. To make it workable, they simply cannot spend money to connect those calls. They also say that Google Voice is software, and software isn’t covered by common carriers rules. Finally, they claim that since Google Voice is an invite-only beta service, it doesn’t need to comply with all regulations.

So, is this just AT&T trying to distract the FCC, or is Google really in the wrong here?


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