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AT&T to FCC: Google Voice is Exploiting its Unfair Advantage

Letter says Google Voice blocks calls to rural areas to save money, giving it an unfair advantage over traditional phone companies

AT&T to FCC: Google Voice is Exploiting its Unfair Advantage

NEW YORK—AT&T sent a letter to the Federal Communication Commission Friday complaining that Google Voice will continue to have an unfair advantage if it is not subject to the same regulations as those imposed upon traditional phone companies.

"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, said in the letter addressed to the FCC's Sharon Gillett, the head of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau.

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Citing media reports that the search giant’s new service was blocking some calls to phone numbers in rural areas in order to cut down on expenses, a practice phone companies are forbidden from doing, Quinn asserted that Google was tilting the playing field to its benefit.

"Google Voice thus has claimed for itself a significant advantage over providers offering competing services," AT&T's Quinn said, "As such, Google Voice would appear to be subject to the same call blocking prohibition applicable to providers of other telecommunications services.

According to Reuters, “AT&T disputed Google's argument that Google Voice is not a traditional phone service and should not be regulated like one. AT&T described Google Voice as a ‘creatively packaged’ offering similar to phone services that are regulated by the FCC.”

"As such,” Quinn said in the letter, “Google Voice would appear to be subject to the same call blocking prohibition applicable to providers of other telecommunications services."

Google responded to AT&A missive through a company lawyer, who said the company's Voice service application is a web software tool that should not be regulated like telephone companies.

"We feel comfortable that it is not a regulated service," Richard Whitt, a Washington D.C.-based lawyer, told Reuters. "It is a service that originates from an online platform."

Even if Google Voice is ultimately classified as an Internet application, AT&T argues that it should still be subject to the same rules required of its offline competitors, as outlined in the FCC's fourth principle in its Internet Policy Statement.

"By openly flaunting the call blocking prohibition that applies to its competitors, Google is acting in a manner inconsistent with the fourth principle," Quinn said.

The four current guiding principles outlined in the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement are, as follows:

  1. To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
  2. To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
  3. To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.13
  4. To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.”

“Do these rules apply?” Quinn added. “Or do they only apply one way? Could we block calls to Google Voice?”






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