Google Voice stops blocking some calls, but calls for FCC reform

Google told the FCC today that is has tweaked its Google Voice product, so it can restrict calls to only specific high-cost phone numbers. Google Voice now restricts calls to less than 100 specific phone numbers, Google said in a filing with the FCC. Google said it has good reason to believe the numbers it still blocks are engaged in so-called "traffic pumping schemes."

Google Voice, the company's call-routing service, had been blocking calls to numbers with high connection fees, such as adult chat lines and conference call lines. Google said it was doing this to "prevent these schemes from exploiting the free nature of Google Voice, making it harder for use to offer this new service to users."

AT&T complained to the FCC about that practice, saying Google was blocking calls not just to adult chat and conference call lines, but also to legitimate numbers in rural areas. AT&T argued Google shouldn't be allowed to restrict calls to any numbers when other phone carriers are not allowed to do so. Google said it should be exempt from those rules because it is not a traditional carrier. The FCC launched in inquiry into Google Voice and lawmakers also weighed in.

Although Google backed down a bit from that stance today, Google telecom lobbyist Rick Whitt said: "While we've developed a fix to address this problem, the bottom line is that we still believe the Commission needs to repair our nation's broken carrier compensation system. The current system simply does not serve consumers well and these types of schemes point up the pressing need for reform."