Rural carrier asks for broader FCC inquiry

Joshua Nelson, president of Great Lakes Communication, a local exchange carrier in Spencer, Iowa, said he welcomes the FCC's inquiry into Google Voice and its practice of blooking calls to rural areas.

But he also wants the FCC to expand its inquiry to other Web-based calling service providers, such as MagicJack and Speakeasy. Those firms, Nelson said, use the Internet to connect calls between traditional landlines and wireless phones using underlying local exchange carriers. And by claiming they are not a traditional telecommunications service, they are able to avoid requirements the traditional phone companies must abide by.

In a letter sent Monday to the FCC, Nelson said these new services should not be able to pick and choose which aspects of telephony they can mimic but then ignore other FCC restrictions. And he points out that the FCC has committed to principles that do not give one technology over another.

"Indeed, it would be entirely incongruous if an iPhone App for conference calling could not be blocked under FCC regulations, but a call using a VoIP-based service on a traditional telephone could be blocked," he said in the letter.

"Further...the VoIP carriers are in fact restricting access to advanced telecommunications capabilities to rural Americans...This practice, if left unchecked, would restrict the content their subscribers can access."

The FCC on Friday sent a list of questions to Google about its Google Voice service, after AT&T and some lawmakers said Google was blocking calls to some rural phone numbers. Google acknowledged it does block calls to conference call centers and chat-lines, which have higher access fees.

The agency now has concerns about "access stimulation," in which long distance carriers end up paying higher access charges to certain local carriers.

The FCC has been planning on reforming intercarrier compensation requirements for years. It is unclear how quickly the agency will address this particular issue.