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

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.

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TOPICS: AT&T, Google, Mobility
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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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30 comments
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  • How about fixing the first article

    so we know what you are talking about.
    Michael Kelly
    • OK, fixed

      (nt)
      rkoman@...
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    Typical aggressive rhetoric from a corporate giant. "Be on the offensive before end up on the defensive". The entire business model of cell service is unethical and broken and these dinosaurs are only putting off the inevitable.
    gtg092x
    • Which corporate giant would you be talking about?

      Google is a multi-billion dollar company. Quit treating them like some
      little underdog working out of the family basement.

      Google has already shown what kind of company they are on multiple
      occasions, the latest being the wireless auction bait and switch they
      performed.
      frgough
      • Yes,

        Yes, it was truly awfull how they tried to ensure
        wireless platforms had to be open.
        Really, really evil of them.
        twdarkflame
      • Google has done no harm

        Data collection is not evil, misuse of data is evil. Earning a profit is not evil, blocking legitimate competition is. Every claim of Google as evil is easily debatable.
        T1Oracle
  • Torn...

    I can certainly appreciate the arguments being trotted out by Google. They seem, however, to want to have the best of both worlds...acting as a de-facto "common carrier" while not actually being one. Given this, I can also appreciate actual "common carriers" desire for a level playing field...even when they have been guilty in the past of not fostering a level playing field themselves. Google is playing a tightrope balancing act and may find themselves unable to continue pushing the envelope without falling into regulated status. Like 'em or hate 'em, it's clear they are nothing if not ambitious. With ambition comes responsibility, and that's something many companies learn the hard way.
    jasonp@...
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    AT&T is talking nonsense, it is charging consumers too much and providing bad service.
    if they continue to do like this, they will not last in the market for long, and it will be divided into 4 parts this time.
    wake up AT&T, last chance for you.
    david923
  • No matter how they are providing...

    the service it is still telecommunications. They are in direct competition with AT&T's telephone services.

    Like I've said in other posts, the only way to approach this whole issue is to start at the bottom. You have companies that provide the service of an infrastructure. Then you have companies that provide services that use the infrastructure. The idea of a telephone network no longer is a viable way to look at it. You have a network service and you have telephone services that use this network. This is the same network that data and content services use.

    To take it a step further, companies that provide the network or infrastructure service need to divest from the part of the company that provides the services that use the network. Until this is done we are wasting our time trying to enforce network neutrality.
    bjbrock
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    Go Google! It's about time we finally have a customer advocate! ATT is infrastructure, Google is not!
    buckeyecal
    • consumer advocate?

      While I think Google is probably right on this question, I would strongly caution you not to perceive the company as a "consumer advocate." Creating profitable (and sometimes audacious) new businesses is the point, not protecting consumers.
      rkoman@...
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    I think Google is lying here by saying "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. "

    When its VOIP, all you will need is data, and that's what they are trying to do. Eventually it will be just voip and no land line/wireless lines will be needed.

    Google should adhere to the same carrier rules.
    Neil39
    • VoIP != Google Voice

      While Google Voice uses VoIP, it is tied to existing phone service. It's not Skype.

      Can you cite any references that say Google Voice can be used for just computer-to-computer voice calls without a valid E.164 telephone number?
      NetArch.
      • Sure...

        One of the features listed is integration with Gizmo SIP services. While you *can* attach a standard E.164 telephone number with a Gizmo account, that certainly isn't a requirement.
        jasonp@...
      • VoIP? Where???

        I beg to differ... I don't see anywhere in the application where Google Voice uses VoIP, at least on an apllication level. It simply redials a local access number to access the platform and reroute calls.
        mtupper
  • Darkmane's definition of a common carrier is wrong

    From YourDictionary.com:

    [i]In telecommunications, a company that is licensed to provide message transport services to the general public and generally is regulated to a considerable extent, at least with respect to fundamental aspects of service such as availability and basic rates. Such a license grants the holder certain rights, such as the right to control and assign globally unique telephone numbers (i.e., E.164 numbers), the right to collect certain fees from other carriers when handling calls jointly, and status under certain laws and regulations requiring interconnection. Common carrier status also imposes certain responsibilities, including collecting taxes from users, publishing tariffs, providing interconnection arrangements to other carriers, and paying certain fees to other carriers. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the state public utilities commissions (PUCs) regulate incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), i.e., telephone companies or telcos, and interexchange carriers (IXCs) to various extents.[/i]

    How would the FCC define Google Voice? It's certainly not a local exchange carrier - they don't own outside plant (lines) and infrastructure dedicated to individual customers. They're not an inter-exchange carrier - they don't transport calls between LECs. They're certainly not a long-distance carrier. What AT&T is asking for is for the FCC to change the rules because Google is not playing AT&T's game.

    I'm not saying that Google is totally right, but under existing rules and regulations, they're within the Law.

    Remember that AT&T and Verizon are both composed of regulated and non-regulated businesses. They'd better be careful what they ask for - this is one area ripe for unintended consequences.
    NetArch.
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    Any technology or service that delivers real savings to businesses or consumers should be "good to go." But, even in the most simplistic industries, laws are often needed to prevent "deceptive and unfair trade practices."

    Dale DeWalt
    411maximizer.com
    206-793-0000
    411maximizer.com
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    It is totally inconceiveable why Google voice is different from any other common carrier.

    It is the service-provided that is regulated by the FCC regulations not how it is provided.

    Vonage and other IP phone providers could also use the Google argument. That will not be a good thing.

    btw, if google wants to be your phone then it has to be a phone in all aspects.

    The comparision for net neturality is just bs.


    n2201
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    1. Paid service connects you via data stream to the
    infinite network.
    2. Do whatever you want on the infinite network.
    ...
    3. Mostmodernist.com
    mostmodernist.com
  • RE: Google's response to AT&T's charges on Google Voice

    I would say FCC should create another category based on the new technology. I don't think "Common Carrier" should be applied since it only emulate the function but not exactly the same. What Google Voice is, it's a software that uses an existing internet connection.

    If Google Voice will be categorized as a "Common Carrier", then anything that connecting two people, which has a basic function that emulate a "phone call" should be included as a Common Carrier. That includes, ym, wm, with their internet phone and other software that emulate similar function.

    Including Google Voice as a Common Carrier, will limit or put on hold on any new software technology progress. If AT&T did not like the fact that Google Voice invented another way of making a call, which in this case could, and would threatened its business, I would suggest AT&T should improve its service in many ways.

    Fact:
    1. Google Voice is a software that uses internet connection to make a call.
    2. Google Voice is FREE.
    3. Google Voice will save some money.
    4. Google Voice can manage your own call, which we couldn't do with regular line to avoid unwanted caller.
    5. AT&T will be effected as a "Common Carrier" since they offer these services NOT FREE (home phone carrier, SMS (for iPhone users), etc.

    As you can see that AT&T is about to lose some of its services to FREE Google Voice.
    nexgenmax