Mobile Technology News & Mobile Fun

Google Voice controversy continues with melee between AT&T and Google

By Tim Conneally, Betanews

In light of the coming revision to the United States’ regulations on net neutrality, AT&T contacted the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau with a letter today which said that Google –“one of the most noisome trumpeters of so-called ‘net neutrality’ regulation”– is violating the very net neutrality rules it claims to support.

But since Google is not a network operator, it is not subject to the same regulation that a company like AT&T is. Robert Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president for federal regulations used today’s letter to the FCC to make the case that Google Voice should be.

“Google Voice appears to be nothing more than a creatively packaged assortment of services that are already quite familiar to the Commission…as such, [it] would appear to be subject to the same call blocking prohibition applicable to providers of other telecommunications services,” Quinn said.

While the carrier claimed it had no part in the rejection of the Google Voice iPhone application, this letter makes it plain that AT&T strongly opposes the service.

“By openly flaunting the call blocking prohibition that applies to its competitors, Google is acting in a manner inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the FCC’s fourth principle contained in its Internet Policy Statement,” Quinn wrote. “Ironically, Google is also flouting the so-called ‘fifth principle of non-discrimination’ for which Google has so fervently advocated.”

Even though AT&T spoke out against the principles of “wireless net neutrality” just days ago, this letter appears to be an attempt to turn that position around and use those principles to its advantage.

Richard Whitt of Google’s Washington Telecom and Media Counsel issued a public response this evening saying, “AT&T is trying to make this about Google’s support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn’t fly. The FCC’s open Internet principles apply only to the behavior of broadband carriers — not the creators of Web-based software applications. Even though the FCC does not have jurisdiction over how software applications function, AT&T apparently wants to use the regulatory process to undermine Web-based competition and innovation.”

“Google Voice does restrict certain outbound calls from our Web platform…But despite AT&T’s efforts to blur the distinctions between Google Voice and traditional phone service, there are many significant differences: Unlike traditional carriers, Google Voice is a free, Web-based software application, and so not subject to common carrier laws. Google Voice is not intended to be a replacement for traditional phone service — in fact, you need an existing land or wireless line in order to use it. Importantly, users are still able to make outbound calls on any other phone device.. Google Voice is currently invitation-only, serving a limited number of users.”

Google Voice has become one of the most controversial services in recent history, all thanks to the potential benefits it could bring consumers and headache it could bring to other companies. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall between the regulatory cracks.

Copyright Betanews, Inc. 2009

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