Google has responded to AT&T’s allegations that its Voice application “systematically” blocks telephone calls to certain rural areas with high connection costs. According to Google legal counsel Richard Whitt, the FCC’s open Internet principles apply only to the behavior of broadband carriers – and not to the creators of Web-based software applications.
“Google Voice’s goal is to provide consumers with free or low-cost access to as many advanced communications features as possible. In order to do this, Google Voice does restrict certain outbound calls from our Web platform to these high-priced destinations,” Whitt conceded in an official blog post. “But despite AT&T’s efforts to blur the distinctions between Google Voice and traditional phone service, there are many significant differences.”
Whitt explained that Google Voice could not be considered a traditional carrier and therefore remains exempt from common carrier laws. In addition, Whit claimed that Google Voice is “not intended” to be a replacement for traditional phone services – as the service required an existing land or wireless line.
“AT&T is trying to make this about Google’s support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn’t fly. Even though the FCC does not have jurisdiction over how software applications function, AT&T apparently wants to use the regulatory process to undermine Web-based competition and innovation,” said Whitt. “We agree with AT&T that the current carrier compensation system is badly flawed, and that the single best answer is for the FCC to take the necessary steps to fix it.”