Thursday, October 15, 2009

AT&T vs. Google Voice becomes a big rural story

We reported earlier this week that the Federal Communications Commission is investigating the Google Voice telephone service for blocking calls to rural areas where local telephone companies charge high fees to connect the calls. Now the controversy has turned into the biggest rural story of the week, as mainstream and tech media report on the big telephone company's latest gambit. "It is officially getting nasty now," Seth Weintraub of ComputerWorld declares.

"AT&T Inc. accused Google Inc. of blocking calls to Benedictine nuns, a congressman's campaign office and a myriad of small businesses in rural areas, in the latest escalation of the battle," Amy Schatz of The Wall Street Journal reports. She writes that AT&T employees "used Google's search engine to identify specific businesses, churches and others, including a convent of Benedictine nuns in Minnesota and the campaign office of Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), which could be getting blocked." (Read more)

Stephen Wildstrom writes on The Tech Beat blog for Business Week, "The squabble between AT&T and Google over Google Voice and call blocking is descending into a familiar Old Economy pattern: Competitors trying to game the regulatory system for their own advantage." Analyzing At&T's latest letter, Wildstrom writes, "the nub of the argument is that the network neutrality demanded by Google means that Internet players such as Google should be bound by the same regulatory regime as the old-line telcos."

Wildstrom looks ahead: "The FCC cannot unilaterally end or even reduce termination charges by rural carriers, or any of hundreds of other absurdities embedded in telecom regulation. The structure was created by Congress and federal courts have kept the commission on a short leash when it has tried to expand its authority beyond the letter of the law." (Read more)

Cecilia Kang of The Washington Post writes on Tech Post, "Sources at the FCC who spoke on the condititon of anonymity said the FCC inquiry focuses on the question of potential violations of telecommunications law. The agency does not plan to look into potential violations of net neutrality -- or open-Internet guidelines -- because officials didn't appear to agree with such claims." (Read more)

No comments: