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AT&T Says Google Voice Not Neutral

AT&T has turned up the volume on Google Voice in a filing with the FCC.

At issue is Google’s decision to block calls that are routed to certain rural areas with higher than average termination costs.

Google questions regulating its service - a web application - the same as traditional phone services, but AT&T’s letter claims that at the end of the day, Google Voice is routing PSTN to PSTN calls.

AT&T calls Google’s behaviour—actions by one of the leading advocates for net neutrality—hypocritical:

Google’s double-standard for “openness”—where Google does what it wants while other providers are subject to Commission regulations—is plainly inconsistent with the goal of preserving a “free and open” Internet ecosystem.

The AT&T letter raises interesting questions of how far open access regulation should go.

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?

While these are hypothetical cases being raised, so are most of the concerns behind the additional rules being sought by those advocating special net neutrality legislation.

Is AT&T using a reductio ad absurdum argument against Google as part of its net neutrality campaign?

How far would open access regulation extend?

By Mark Goldberg, Telecommunications Consultant

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