Top lawmakers ask questions about "traffic pumping"

The FCC is currently looking into these schemes as a result of questions AT&T raised about Google Voice, which blocks calls to certain numbers in rural areas, many of which are conference lines and adult chat-lines that charge more to connect the calls. Google said, since it offers its service free to consumers, it cannot afford to pay those fees. Some small rural carriers then balked at AT&T's line of questioning, saying the large carrier often does not pay its own bills resulting from connection fees to these higher-priced numbers.

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Last week, 20 members of Congress sent a letter to the FCC asking it to investigate the traffic pumping issue to make sure rural carriers and customers are not left out of certain services, and to make sure Google plays by the same rules applied to other telecom services. See my earlier post on this.

This letter is asking the FCC to also look into the high rates some smaller carriers are allegedly charging long-distance carreris to connect the calls.

"We believe any investigation of this matter must also examine the existing access charge regime and purported abuses of that system...Just last month, the Iowa Utilities Board found that eight local exchange companies had engaged in a traffic pumping scheme in which they were providing free calling services for indecent or pornographic content. According to the Iowa board, these companies were attempting to increase access charge revenues by 10,000 percent. The cost of these schemes is substantial and impacts all consumers, not just those living in rural areas," the letter said.

The lawmakers asked a series of questions and requested responses by Oct. 27.