AT&T Slams Google Voice On Blocked Calls


The charge, outlined in a letter AT&T sent to the FCC on Friday, is the latest in a growing war of words between AT&T and Google.

Google, in a blog posting, rebutted AT&T's claims, arguing that Google Voice is a Web-based application rather than a phone service and so is "not subject to common carrier laws."

In AT&T's letter, Robert Quinn, senior vice president of federal regulations at AT&T, said Google "is systematically blocking telephone calls from consumers that use Google Voice to call telephone numbers in certain rural communities." Some local carriers in rural areas charge long-distance companies high rates to connect to their networks and by blocking calls to those areas Google Voice "is able to reduce its access expenses," Quinn said, referencing news reports in The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and other publications.

Such actions violate the FCC's principle that consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers, AT&T charged. That principle is designed to ensure that there is a level playing field between communications network companies and that consumers reap the benefits of that competition.

Sponsored post

"This vision is apparently not shared by one of the most noisome trumpeters of so-called 'Net neutrality' regulation, Google, at least when it comes to its own services," Quinn's letter states.

The Net neutrality argument holds that carriers should be prohibited from blocking or slowing the transmission of any content on the Web. Net neutrality backers, including Google, say some carriers block content from competitors under the guise of managing network traffic. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski last week proposed adopting rules to enforce Net neutrality.

In a blog posted late Friday, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington Telecom and media counsel, didn't dispute that Google Voice sometimes blocks calls to some rural carriers that partner with "adult chat services, conference calling centers, party lines and others" and charge high rates.

Carriers are required by law to provide connectivity to all local carriers. Whitt, in his blog, agreed with AT&T that "the current carrier compensation system is badly flawed" and that the best resolution is for the FCC to address the issue.

Whitt said Google Voice provides consumers with "free or low-cost access to as many advanced communications features as possible," but does restrict certain outbound calls to "these high-priced destinations." But Whitt said Google Voice, as a free Web-based application, is not subject to common carrier laws.

"AT&T is trying to make this about Google's support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn't fly," Whitt wrote, referring to Quinn's comments about Google's Net neutrality support.

The latest flare-up between AT&T and Google follows charges by Google that Apple was refusing to make the Google Voice application available on the Apple iPhone. AT&T is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone and Google charged that Apple was not carrying Google Voice because it could be used to get around for-fee services provided by AT&T.