Lots of finger-pointing in Google Voice battle


David Erickson, president of the company, wants Google Voice to stop blocking calls to its service. Here's a link to his ex-parte presentation recently given to the FCC, in which he argues long-distance carriers, including AT&T, should modify their rates to avoid "traffic pumping" situations.

AT&T, meanwhile, was the first to complain about Google Voice, saying it doesn't just block conference call lines and adult chat lines, but also other legitimate rural calls to congressional district offices and even Benedictine nuns. The FCC stopped AT&T from blocking high-cost calls two years ago, and the company says Google should be held to the same rules. AT&T has also been trying to get the FCC to put a stop to "traffic pumping" schemes for years.

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And there's ZipDX, another conference call company that charges users for the service. David Frankel, the company's CEO, said he thinks free services like FreeConferenceCall.com, are gaming the intercarrier compensation system in order to provide calls for free, and that hurts his not-for-free service. He's not a fan of Google Voice, either, saying it seems to be intentionally avoiding paying access charges on calls delivered to other carriers, but simultaneously collects access charges on calls delivered to their own networks. Here's a link to his ex-parte materials.

But there's more. Small phone carriers say they resent the possibility of being blocked by any service. They also say AT&T is hypocritical in complaining about Google Voice because AT&T itself has not paid some of its bills to small carriers who connect calls from AT&T's network. U.S. Telecom, a trade group that represents small, local carriers, laid out arguments in this filing with the FCC.

Google said it is not a traditional phone service, so it is not bound by the same regulations. It partially relented in its call-blocking after the FCC formally inquired about the service, now saying it only blocks calls to fewer than 100 numbers. It didn't, however, say how many numbers it had previously restricted. Google also acknowledged its service falls under the FCC's jurisdiction according to the Communications Act. Here's Google's most recent letter to the FCC.

An FCC source said the agency's Wireline Bureau, which is handling the issue, is trying to decide whether to single out the "traffic pumping" problem, or to address it as part of a larger effort to reform the intercarrier compensation system.

Revamping the system, it seems, is the only thing all of the companies above can agree on.