Google tells FCC it's still blocking calls, but fewer of them
Google told the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday that it's still blocking some high-cost phone calls, but its engineers have figured out a way to reduce the phone numbers affected to fewer than 100.
That may not be enough to satisfy the agency, which prohibits the denial of phone calls. Google has argued that they are refusing to connect calls that are part of "traffic pumping" schemes, where local carriers collect high fees for the connection of high-traffic adult-chat and free conference call numbers.
Google was responding to a request from the FCC earlier this month to explain the types services Google Voice supplies and why it is blocking some calls. The inquiry was prompted by a complaint from AT&T, which has itself criticized traffic pumping practices and have asked the agency to create policies that would halt them.
"Over the past few weeks, we've been looking at ways to do this on a more granular level. We told the FCC today that Google Voice now restricts calls to fewer than 100 specific phone numbers, all of which we have good reason to believe are engaged in traffic pumping schemes," telecom and media counsel Richard Whitt wrote in the company's public policy blog.
"While we've developed a fix to address this problem, the bottom line is that we still believe the Commission needs to repair our nation's broken carrier compensation system," he wrote. "The current system simply does not serve consumers well and these types of schemes point up the pressing need for reform."
On the surface, the issue touches on arcane telecom policy. But underlying it is a broader battle between AT&T and Google at the FCC over future fortunes on the Web.
The phone giant has been pushing for greater regulation over the Internet titan. AT&T has said a proposal on open-Internet rules should include companies like Google, saying services like Google Voice show that the applications layer of the Web can also act as a gatekeeper of Web services. Silicon Valley-based Google has rejected that argument, saying that Internet users depend on open access to the Web through the network operators and that applications on top of that layer of basic infrastructure isn't regulated by the FCC.
October 28, 2009; 6:20 PM ET
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