AT&T: Google Is So Evil, They Even Block Calls to Nuns

The AT&T vs. Google Voice debate has gotten much more interesting/entertaining, thanks to a letter from AT&T to the FCC, loudly trashing Google—and even the FCC themselves, for allowing Google to run rampant. There's some serious animosity here.

In the letter, AT&T outlines a lot of their specific problems not just with Google Voice but with what they see as lack of regulation of Google as a whole. Their first main point is that Google Voice isn't merely software (which wouldn't be regulated by the FCC), but seeing as how it connects calls between users, it should be seen (and regulated) in the same way as typical wireless carriers. They've asked for an FCC investigation of GV before, but now we're getting some more in-depth reasoning and, even better, some smack talk. The salient paragraph:

But Google Voice is far more than just a software application. Rather, Google Voice uses telecommunications (supplied by its wholesale partner Bandwidth.com) to transmit voice calls between end users and it thus unquestionably constitutes "interstate and foreign communications by wire or radio" under the Communications Act, placing it squarely within the Commission's jurisdiction. Indeed, Google Voice appears to be a telecommunications service insofar as it transmits ordinary telephone calls between customers using the public switched telephone network.

AT&T further contends that if Google is not regulated, they could easily use their position as de facto "gatekeeper" of the internet to block access or visibility to cloud software or sites which they see as competition to their own services:

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?

In terms of call blocking, Google does admit to blocking certain numbers, which they claim as sex lines (which have a high cost to connect). But AT&T found that they block more than just sex lines, which if true would make Google's position as a proponent of net neutrality less tenable:

In fact, Google is blocking calls to, among others, an ambulance service, church, bank, law firm, automobile dealer, day spa, orchard, health clinic, tax preparation service, community center, eye doctor, tribal community college, school, residential consumers, a convent of Benedictine nuns, and the campaign office of a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

AT&T has some smack-down words reserved for the FCC, too. In AT&T's view, it is the Commission's duty to hold Google to the same standard to which they believe everyone else has to conform.

And as an agency committed to "preserving a free and open Internet," the Commission should show no hesitation in ensuring its Internet principles are applied evenhandedly to the "network providers, application and service providers, and content providers—including Google—who are expressly subject to them today.

That's kind of formal language, but the message is clear: Oh, snap! FCC and Google, you done got served: How dare you show such favoritism! On the other hand, as TechCrunch points out, AT&T ends the letter by saying they don't agree that the FCC should expand its position on net neutrality:

AT&T once again emphasizes that the principles in the existing Internet Policy Statement are serving customers well in their current form and there is no sound reason to radically expand and codify those principles.

Basically, AT&T is saying that they don't want the FCC to pursue changes in policy, but if they must, Google better be regulated as much as anyone else.

The whole letter reads like whoever wrote it is modulated but really angry about how everyone's on Google's side. It doesn't look like AT&T is about to give in and support Google Voice anytime soon, that's for sure. [TechCrunch]