Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

Summary:Here's Google's response to AT&T's charges that Voice discriminates against users in certain, expensive locations. Google's argument: yes, the common carrier system is broken and should be fixed so that local carriers can't rip off common carriers for outrageous connection fees.

Here's Google's response to AT&T's charges that Voice discriminates against users in certain, expensive locations. Google's argument: yes, the common carrier system is broken and should be fixed so that local carriers can't rip off common carriers for outrageous connection fees.

>Under the common carrier laws, AT&T and other traditional phone companies are required to connect these calls. In the past they've argued that these rural carriers are abusing the system to "establish grossly excessive access charges under false pretenses," and to "offer kickbacks to operators of pornographic chat lines and other calling services."

We agree with AT&T that the current carrier compensation system is badly flawed, and that the single best answer is for the FCC to take the necessary steps to fix it.

But ... Google is not a common carrier, not even a telephone network at all. It's a Web-based software application that sits on top of the phone networks.

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.

The argument may be legally correct but still leaves the question open of whether there's any sensible way in which Google is different than a common carrier. Google says yes.

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.

For instance, reader Darkmane says:

I have to say that the fact that you are emulating the general functionality of one common carrier service on top of another service that you are arguing should also be another common carrier, then you should probably act as a common carrier.

To be more clear, the argument that Web based application should not be treated as common carriers works when you are talking about EBay, Craigs List or Gmail. None of these reproduce the service of a common carrier. However since Google Voice, Skype and any other VoIP system are almost wholly reproducing the functionality of a common carrier (Caller ID and 911 being the only things I can think are missing), they should as much as possible adhere to the same rules.

Judge a man by his enemies. In this case, AT&T can see the threat Google represents even if Microsoft is only dimly aware that it's not just about search or advertising or Ofice. AT&T's no friend of consumers, either, though and this particular shot looks like something the FCC can and should brush off.

Topics: AT&T, Google, Mobility

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