AT&T: Google Voice doesn't play fair

So FCC chairman Julius Genachowski wants fairness, eh? We'll give you fairness, says AT&T.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

So FCC chairman Julius Genachowski wants fairness, eh? We'll give you fairness, says AT&T. In a letter filed with the FCC, the company says, Did you notice, FCC, that Google is blocking phone calls from Google Voice users in rural areas? Why are they doing that? Access expense

Google Voice has claimed for itself a significant advantage over providers offering competing services. 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. Ironically, Google is also flouting the so-called ‘fifth principle of non-discrimination’ for which Google has so fervently advocated.

While Google argues for others to be bound by net neutrality rules, it argues against itself being bound by common carriage, which the Financial Times aptly recognized as an ‘intellectual contradiction.’ Such a contradiction highlights the fallacy of any approach to Internet regulation that focuses myopically on network providers, but not application, service, and content providers. 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 that, like Google, can exercise their power to control which websites consumers will see and which consumers’ calls will be blocked.

AT&T strongly emphasizes that the existing Internet principles are serving consumers well in their current form and there is no sound reason to radically expand and codify those principles. But if the Commission nonetheless embarks on such a course as it apparently plans to do in an upcoming rulemaking, it absolutely must ensure that any such rules apply evenly – not just to network operators but also to providers of Internet applications, content and services. Anything less would be ineffective, legally suspect and, in all events, a direct repudiation of President Obama’s call for a ‘level playing field.’

Accordingly, the Commission cannot, through inaction or otherwise, give Google a special privilege to play by its own rules while the rest of the industry, including those who compete with Google, must instead adhere to Commission regulations. We urge the Commission to level the playing field and order Google to play by the same rules as its competitors.

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