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Lawmakers Call for FCC Investigation Into Google Voice

Ten lawmakers representing rural districts asked the Federal Communications Commission Thursday for an investigation into Google’s voice calling service, which is blocking some calls to rural areas.

In a Letter to the FCC (pdf) sent last Wednesday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the bipartisan group of House lawmakers asked for a formal investigation into whether Google Voice was a traditional telephone service and should be regulated as a phone company for blocking the calls. Google has said its service, which forwards calls, aggregates phone numbers and manages calling services over a Web site, isn't a traditional phone service, known in FCC speak as a common carrier service, and shouldn't be held to the same rules as phone companies like AT&T.

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) and Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) were among the lawmakers who sent the letter, saying:

"We understand Google has asserted Google Voice is not a 'traditional' telephone service – despite its use of 10-digit telephone numbers and its ability to connect calls between telephones through a local exchange carrier,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "Instead, Google maintains it out to be allowed to block calls to rural telephone exchanges – a position we find ill conceived and unfair to our rural constituents."

The letter follows one sent earlier this month by AT&T, calling for the FCC to look into the Google Voice's blocking of calls. The complaint raised questions about how federal regulators will approach technologies that overlap the legacy telecom world and new Web technologies.

By Cecilia Kang  |  October 8, 2009; 1:15 PM ET
 
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Comments

Oops.... It appears that there are a handful of Congressmen whom Google has not bought! Guess they will have to get their wallet out.

Posted by: squirma | October 8, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Still not sure what is meant by "block calls to rural telephone exchanges." Can someone shed some light on that?

BTW, the traditional telephone companies have some deep pockets also, and me-thinks they have quite a few more congresspersons in their pockets than Google.

Posted by: leewifflestin | October 9, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Sure there are others that can explain it better, but phone companies pay the company that manages where the phone call terminates. Many rural areas charge much more than most other areas of the country. Obviously these calls cost Google more to complete and instead of paying, they are blocking the calls. I had a similar problem with a low cost long distance company once. Calls to certain regions would not go through because of a disagreement as to billing between the two. Fortunately it only last 2 days.
Google is providing a phone service and should be held to the same standards. Like the old saying, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, its a duck. Google phone service works like a phone service, allows you to call like a phone service, therefore it is a phone service.

Posted by: mdembski1 | October 9, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

From what I understand, this service (Google Voice) is available free to users in the United States (with the exception of international phone calls, for which a charge (described by Google as «low») is made). As long as those other ducks don't quack for free, it's a bit absurd to require of the free duck Google that it connect all calls, irregardless of how much the firm is required to pay by rural carriers. Methinks that the common carriers, ducks known to excel rather at billing consumers than at providing them with service, lie behind the outrage expressed by these congressmen. They obviously don't relish competition from Google....

Henri

Posted by: mhenriday | October 9, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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