AT&T Claims Google Voice Violates Net Neutrality

Ryan Whitwam

AT&T has sent a rather pointed letter to the FCC accusing Google of violating Network Neutrality standards. No, that isn’t a typo. AT&T’s beef is that Google Voice will not connect calls to some numbers that traditional telecoms are required to connect. This is because of so-called “common carrier” laws.

Some rural local telephone carriers charge long distance companies extremely high fees to connect calls to certain numbers on their networks. These are usually numbers for conference call centers, adult chat lines, or party lines. Sneakily, revenues from these connections are shared with the owners of the lines. Google Voice does not connect these calls, and AT&T thinks that isn’t fair.

It is interesting that Google, a company that strongly supports Net Neutrality, is taking this course of action. AT&T seems to want them to be treated like any other telecom, but in Google’s response , they lay out their rationale for why AT&T should shut it.

Google says that first and foremost, Google Voice is a free service. To make it workable, they simply cannot spend money to connect those calls. They also say that Google Voice is software, and software isn’t covered by common carriers rules. Finally, they claim that since Google Voice is an invite-only beta service, it doesn’t need to comply with all regulations.

So, is this just AT&T trying to distract the FCC, or is Google really in the wrong here?

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