There's been yet another twist in the ongoing drama surrounding Google, AT&T and the FCC.
Washington lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have asked the FCC to launch a formal investigation of Google Voice, specifically Google's blocking of calls to certain rural exchanges, according to a Reuters report. Last month, AT&T sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, crying foul because Google blocks calls to exchanges that route certain types of calls, such as adult chat lines, because they charge excessive fees.
According to AT&T’s reasoning, Google is acting like a telecommunications company because it’s connecting calls. And as a telecommunications company, it’s subject to laws that prohibit a carrier from blocking access to numbers. Google, of course, says it's not a telecommunications company and is not subject to the same regulations. In that sense, Google is right. It's a Web service that doesn’t even work unless it’s linked to a landline or wireless phone. As a stand-alone service, it is incapable of placing and receiving phone calls.
Clearly, AT&T has an issue with Google Voice, which is making it harder to believe that it's not involved in the other Google Voice controversy - the alleged rejection by Apple of the Google Voice app for the iPhone. Google has said publicly and in a response from FCC questioning that the app had been rejected. Apple disputed that claim, saying that it is still reviewing the app. AT&T has said from the beginning that it has had no influence over Apple's rejection or acceptance of the app.
But now I can't help but wonder if there's something fishy going on behind the scenes. I originally bought into the claim that AT&T had no say in the Google Voice app - but now I'm starting to feel very naive and suckered. Maybe it is a good idea for the FCC to launch a full-fledged investigation. If there's funny business going on - or if companies are lying to federal officials - that's something that needs to be looked into.