Google Reponds to AT&T Letter; Public Interest Groups Slam the Phone Giant's Claims
Google responded to AT&T's letter (here it is: googleletter.pdf) with a blog poking holes in the phone giant's claims that Google Voice is a common carrier, or traditional phone line network operator.
In the blog posting, Google's telecom lobbyist, Rick Whitt, says the company's service "does restrict certain outbound calls from our Web platform" to areas that are expensive to connect to.
"But despite AT&T's efforts to blur the distinctions between Google Voice and traditional phone service, there are many significant differences:
"Unlike traditional carriers, Google Voice is a free, Web-based software application, and so not subject to common carrier laws.
"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. Google Voice is currently invitation-only, serving a limited number of users.
"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 broadband carriers -- not Web-based software applications. Even though the FCC does not have jurisdiction over software applications, AT&T apparently wants to use the regulatory process to undermine Web-based competition and innovation."
Consumer advocates dismissed the letter and AT&T's arguments, warning that the move was meant to slow FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's effort to implement stronger rules that would allow consumers to access any legal content or services on the Web.
"To be clear, the FCC's open Internet principles apply to Internet Access Service Providers -- those companies who control the on-ramps to the information superhighway. AT&T raises a red herring with their letter -- the Internet Policy Statement applies only to Internet access services," said Derek Turner, research director at Free Press.
"Whatever regulatory or technical classifications it may eventually fall under, Google Voice is certainly not an Internet access service," Turner said.
September 25, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
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