In an interesting turn of events the FCC may investigate Google over Google Voice. The concern is that the service blocks some numbers in rural areas claiming that it is too expensive to connect. Federal law prohibits traditional carriers from blocking such calls.
AT&T has complained about this to the FCC saying that Google would have an unfair advantage if they didn’t have to follow the same rules as the other carriers. But, as we all know, Google Voice isn’t a traditional carrier. In fact Google Voice is barely usable without pairing it with a traditional telephone service.
This is just one more flare up in the ongoing feud among Google, Apple, and AT&T. Things will eventually get sorted out and I have a hunch that the FCC will get what’s best for users.
Update 10/14/09: From AT&T’s latest letter to the FCC (a copy of which can be found on TechCrunch):
But Google’s call blocking begs an even more important question that the Commission must consider as it evaluates whether to adopt rules regarding Internet openness. If the Commission is going to be a “smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet,” then shouldn’t its “beat” necessarily cover the entire Internet neighborhood, including Google? Indeed, if the Commission cannot stop Google from blocking disfavored telephone calls as Google contends, then how could the Commission ever stop Google from also blocking disfavored websites from appearing in the results of its search engine; or prohibit Google from blocking access to applications that compete with its own email, text messaging, cloud computing and other services; or otherwise prevent Google from abusing the gatekeeper control it wields over the Internet?
Harsh words indeed. AT&T also says that Google Voice is blocking calls to an ambulance service, church, Benedictine nuns, doctors, etc. This feud is getting more interesting by the day.
Update 10/28/09: The Washington Post is reporting that although Google is still blocking some phone numbers, they have reduced the number of blocked numbers to fewer than 100.
Update 1/2/10: VoiceCentral Returning to the iPhone