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Is AT&T Right to Attack Google Voice?

The FCC is trying to understand why AT&T is fighting Google Voice. When all is said and done, will they find that AT&T is justified?

The FCC is trying to understand why AT&T is fighting Google Voice. When all is said and done, will they find that AT&T is justified?

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Google claims that AT&T is trying to get legislators to treat Google Voice just like any other phone service in order to subject them to regulations that will hamper their innovation. AT&T has said that it is unfair that Google Voice disallows calls to certain areas of the country like Alaska, when such discrimination would be illegal for a traditional phone company.

By fighting Google Voice, AT&T may simply be trying to avoid being made victim of something called “traffic pumping.” As ArsTechnica explains, the scheme is used by local telephone providers to win big fees from AT&T, which must pay local networks to connect phone calls to remote areas. Sometimes those local phone companies conspire with conference call companies or sex chat lines to have their numbers lead to a remote area where a bigger network will face a connection fee. When the partner company generates lots of connections, the local phone network collects big, government-mandated payouts from the bigger carriers. The chat lines get their service for free; only the big telecoms end up the loser.

In Utah, such an alleged scheme caused AT&T to be billed for over 200 million minutes of inter-network traffic by smaller Beehive Telephone Company, in cahoots with a chat line. AT&T argues that the connection area is deserted, and that not a single one of those calls /originated/ in the calling area. The more mass-call lines exist by way of shows like American Idol or services like Google Voice, the more AT&T and its peers stand to lose their shirts.

Google argues that it’s the FCC rule, not their service, which requires amending. The FCC has not yet released any findings from their probe.

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About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs

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