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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.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 25, 2009; 5:00 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
Previous: Update: AT&T Accuses Google of Violating Telecom Laws; Google Rejects Claims | Next: Washington Post Editorial Calls Net Neutrality Rules Unnecessary

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Thats great to see that Google has already responded

Posted by: drvoip | September 26, 2009 5:02 AM

AT&T is the biggest ever shyster run company in this country and has no grounds to belly ache about anything. It has outsourced consumer services abroad and does not even provide information to these outsourced folks that work for these shysters in the US. In the rural USA AT&T does not want to provide any services because its profits get in the way of doing business.

The best thing that can happen is if this menace just goes belly up or just disappears once for all.

Posted by: winemaster2 | September 26, 2009 6:57 AM

I've watched Southwest Bell for about 30 years, not trusting their business-practices one iota--but living in U.S. regions where SWB became "the only game in town". SWB swallowed Pacific Bell when I lived in/near San Francisco in the early '80s, in what was then described as a "hostile take-over"; "Pacific Bell" (in name only) immediately doubled the consumer-costs of the then-ubiquitous San Francisco street-side pay-phones for local calls. Living in Cleveland, OH, for the past 20 years I watched SWB swallow Ameritech, at the turn of the century: Ameritech was a 5-state midwest 'phone company

Posted by: marc85 | September 26, 2009 10:45 AM

(continued) In its bid to display its giant, high-profit-generating business-id/ego to the financial world, SWB changed its "corporate identity" by changing its business-name to "AT&T"--hoping to be accepted by all who remember what Alexander Graham Bell did for all of us. I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep if the "New AT&T" exits the same way the "original AT&T": U.S. government anti-trust regulations.

Posted by: marc85 | September 26, 2009 11:05 AM

What AT&T is trying to do is to get the FCC to rule that Google Talk (which I use occasionally) is a common carrier so that they are subject to FCC tariffs, thus raising the price (from free to some kind of fee). They are howling at the moon because the FCC will never go for it. AT&T is complaining mainly because Google Talk is free: You don't see the behemoth going after Vonage or Skype, do you? I worked for years at a CLEC (WilTel), and I've worked with SWB, then AT&T a lot. A completely monolithic and dysfunctional organization. Their biggest problem is that landlines are shrinking (and are a money loser to boot), and the cellular market is pretty stagnant. Plus Verizon (the other gorilla in the room) is sucking their customers away. As soon as AT&T loses exclusive marketing for the iPhone, they'll probably be suing everyone they can, from Google to Skype to Vonage to Coon Valley Telephone Co-Op (a real LEC up in either Minnesota or Wisconsin -- can't remember which, but they are a tariffed LEC).

Posted by: milano99_99 | September 26, 2009 4:34 PM

AT&T spent twenty two millions dollars for lobbyist to buy the California State Senate and Assembly to take control of cable in California away from the cities and give it to a panel controlled by the governor. When the governor signed this law into being, AT&T gave one half million dollars to a charity he controls. As a result of this, Los Angeles has lost it Public Access Television studios and channel.

Posted by: skyanderson | September 26, 2009 5:22 PM

A T & T has the poorest customer relations that I have ever encountered in my many years doing business. You can never get anything done or get the same department to find out why things do not get done. A call the the FCC and FTC along with local citizen utility boards finally gets some action but it still needs more control. Money hungry and care nothing about their customers.

Posted by: quapaw12000 | September 26, 2009 8:09 PM

In what way is "Free Press" a "public interest" group? It's arguing against consumer interests here.

Posted by: squirma | September 27, 2009 4:54 PM

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