AT&T And Google Voice: Tit For Tat

Reeowr!

What started off as an FCC probe into the banning of Google Voice apps from the iPhone AppStore has exploded into a drama-filled soap opera that has Google and AT&T trading tit for tat. The latest salvo was fired by AT&T and is aimed at undermining Google’s claim that it blocks certain numbers from its Google Voice service in order to keep costs down (or free, as the case may be). In yet another letter submitted to the FCC, AT&T argues that Google Voice isn’t just blocking access to sex chat-lines and free conference call services, it’s also blocking numbers that lead to ambulance services, doctors, nuns and more. Big Blue wants the FCC to regulate Google’s web services.

But, before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s lay down some background.

Last month, Google un-redacted a portion of their FCC letter regarding the banning of Google Voice from the AppStore. The published statement basically called out Apple for explicitly rejecting Google’s official Google Voice app from ever gracing the iPhone. That one little snippet all but absolved AT&T of any involvement in the Google Voice rejection. Shortly thereafter, AT&T sent a letter to the FCC urging the regulatory body to investigate Google Voice and its potential violations of net neutrality policies. At issue was Google Voice’s blocking of phone numbers leading certain telephone exchange carriers (like sex lines and free conference call services). AT&T was banned from doing the exact same thing back in 2007, and didn’t feel good about Google getting away with it.

That same day, Google responded to AT&T’s letter. In Google’s response, the search giant basically argues that AT&T is trying to paint a misleading picture of Google Voice as a traditional telephone service. Google said that Google Voice is a web-based application and so shouldn’t be regulated in the same way as a wireline telco. The service, said Google, is on an invite-only basis as of now and requires users to have a traditional landline or wireless telephone number linked with the Google Voice account. Google closed their argument by pointing out that net neutrality rules only apply to data providers and not web services like Google Voice.

That brings us to yesterday, when AT&T shot off another letter to the FCC. AT&T pointed out that Google wasn’t just blocking phone numbers leading to sleazy and under-handed services, but also blocked legitimate phone numbers. They also argued that Google should be regulated in the same way that traditional telcos are regulated. In fact, AT&T went so far as to warn the FCC that if the commission didn’t put their foot down now, Google could use their influence over the web to block access to future online applications. Then, to top it all off, AT&T rattles off a list of Google’s claims for Google Voice, detailing how each claim is an outright lie.

In the end, what we have are two giant competitors-in-the-making gunning to have the each other regulated out of competitive territory. AT&T argues that net neutrality is important, but shouldn’t necessarily infringe on the way they do business. Google agrees that net neutrality rules have to be enforced, but that it isn’t obliged to abide by those policies because it’s not a telco. But, none of that matters.

What matters is that the FCC is mostly ignoring most of the arguments made by both sides – like an annoyed parent trying to keep two bickering kids from tearing each other up. The Washington Post reports that sources inside the FCC say the regulatory body isn’t going to look into any potential violations of net neutrality. Instead, the FCC is concentrating on finding if any telecommunications laws were violated.

The official documents are embedded below. Altogether, they make for a lengthy read, but if you’re into corporate soap operas acted out in casual legalese, we’d suggest you give them a once over.

AT&T’s letter asking the FCC to investigate Google Voice’s net neutrality violations:

ATT Letter to FCC on Google Voice v7 clean

Google’s response to AT&T’s initial letter can be found on Google’s Public Policy blog here.

AT&T’s second letter to the FCC asking to have Google Voice regulated under net neutrality rules

attletterfccgoogvoice

[Via: WashingtonPost, PCMag, GigaOm]

  • Michael Walker

    AT&T needs to realize net neutrality is about telecommunications providers breaking the rules, not about search engines.

  • Dasmeet

    AT&T has a reason to give every possible way to keep Google Voice away from iPhone & AT&T – It wants to continue selling those minutes and messages at crazy prices… Unfortunately a company like Apple supports them.

    Google Voice more pro-consumer than AT&T or Apple. Look at several Google Projects that don’t make any money.

    What Apple and AT&T are not realizing is that by blocking Google Voice, they are actually sending more customers to Android, T-Mobile and Verizon (soon)….

  • rawthang

    I have both Google Voice and AT&T wireless. I think Google Voice is AWESOME. Wish I could say the same for AT&T. I have had a couple issues with AT&T that make me swear I am going to switch carriers. AT&T has me as a customer because no one else has a plan worth the hassle of switching. Everything I have ever used from Google is FREE and as good or BETTER then the alternative. I know Google is collecting data every time I use its products so I do pay a price. (Only if the information I gave me about me is true)
    I wish Google Voice would allow us to port our Home/Mobile numbers to it. I pay too much for my home phone that I never use anymore. I just can not get my wife to give up the number since all her friends she never talks to has it.

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