Results tagged “Google Voice”

September 30, 2009 2:01 PM

VoIP and POTS: Regulatory Classifications or Magical Incantations?

It's that time of the year again--when nothing is as it appears.  I know this because my kids started to nag me about Halloween costumes.  You know, what they should be (and what I have to buy).  The first catalogues started coming in the mail last week, and the Internet has been humming with on-line searches since then.  But, witches, goblins, and haunted houses aren't the only artificial distortions decorating the autumn landscape this year.

Last Friday, the 25th, AT&T sent a letter to the FCC complaining that Google asserts the right to offer a service that closely resembles regular phone service, but without terminating calls to high-cost providers, like "traffic pumpers."  To be able to selectively avoid completing calls to carriers that charge excessively high termination rates confers a big cost advantage over ones competitors.  Therefore, AT&T argues, on the one hand, that Google should be treated like every other provider of "phone" service and be required to terminate calls to all parties.  Google, for its part, claims that Google Voice is an application and not subject to "common carrier" obligations.  According to Google's service description, the "common carrier" transport portion of its service (if there is one) is provided by a competitive carrier called Bandwidth.Com.

Alternatively, AT&T explains that even if the "Google Voice" service is an "application" or an "information service" it violates the "fourth principle" of the FCC's existing Broadband Policy Statement principles, which apply to all providers of "telecommunications." para. 4. [Note: the existing Broadband Policy Statement principles apply not just to "telecommunications services" which would only cover "telecommunications" offered for a fee to the public, thus Google's point that its service is "free" does not mean it cannot violate a Broadband Freedom principle.]  The fourth Broadband Policy Principle provides that, "consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers."  AT&T also argues that, if Google Voice is an application, Google's service would violate the Commission's proposed "fifth" principle of "non-discrimination" which would ensure consumers that a provider could not block access to another provider.

So, what's the big deal?  Where is the magic?  Where are the "illusions"?  Isn't this just a business-as-usual, Hatfield-McCoy, AT&T-sniping-at-Google letter?  Well, I'm not sure.  As I've disclosed before, I do some consulting for AT&T, but I wasn't involved in this letter, and  I'm not privy to AT&T's reasons for sending it, but I would caution against taking  the letter too literally--in the AT&T v. Google sense.  I'm just an educated observer, but I actually think another blog, Telecom Ramblings, got the right answer first in this post from September 27th. 

Continue reading VoIP and POTS: Regulatory Classifications or Magical Incantations?
August 6, 2009 5:40 PM

The FCC's Inscrutable "Screwtape" Letters

Last Friday, it was reported that the FCC sent a series of letters to Apple, AT&T, and Google reacting to an item reported in the New York Times that Apple, through its iPhone Apps Store, had refused to carry "Google Voice" (a call management application).  "Google Voice" (GV) is still available to iPhone customers by using the Google search engine on their iPhones, so I'm not completely sure what the disadvantage is to Google by not being allowed to "retail/give away" this application in the Apple "Apps Store" (but we'll assume there is some disadvantage because Google asked for "retail" placement, and was denied).  Nonetheless, as TeleComSense noted only a few weeks ago, in the unregulated world, the Supreme Court has only reluctantly found a duty to deal, even by dominant firms

Each letter asked different questions, depending on the firm being asked, about the episode in question--Apple's refusal to carry the GV application, AT&T's relationship to Apple and the decision to not carry the application, and Google's efforts to get its GV application placed in the iPhone Apps Store.  Now for the context that makes me "complexed" (so completely perplexed that I have an inferiority complex) about the FCC's letters--the explanation of why they are so inscrutable (we'll get to the Screwtape reference later).

Continue reading The FCC's Inscrutable "Screwtape" Letters