AT&T: Google Voice Restrictions Are All About Net Neutrality

Says convents, community centers, consumers and Congress member also blocked

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is scheduling a mark-up of the Satellite Home Viewer Update and AT&T says Google Voice's restricting of some calls definitely implicates network neutrality.

In a response Wednesday evening to Google's blog posting on the FCC's inquiry into Google Voice, AT&T said that Google Voice's call blocking "demonstrates exactly why any open Internet principles must also apply evenhandedly to providers of Internet applications, content and services."

If Google is able to block calls, it argues, "and the FCC is powerless to stop it," then Google can block whatever sites, applications or services it wants to."

AT&T is concerned that part of the planned FCC network neutrality proposal being unveiled next week would be to rewrite its Internet policy statement to apply to only ISPs. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said the FCC's first order of business is to deal with network "gatekeepers."

AT&T also said that Google is not just blocking calls from "traffic pumping" businesses like phone sex services. AT&T said it did some testing and found that also being blocked were calls to an "ambulance service, church, bank, law firm, automobile dealer, day spa, orchard, health clinic, tax preparation service, community center, eye doctor, tribal community college, school, residential consumers, a convent of Benedictine nuns, and the campaign office of a member of the U.S. House of Representatives."

AT&T complained to the FCC last month about Google Voice call blocking, prompting the commission to seek more information from Google on the service.

Google telecom and media counsel Richard Whitt responded to AT&T's complaint in a blog posting saying it was only restricting calls to certain numbers because of their "exorbitant termination rates," citing sex chat and free conference calling centers. He said that was because Google Voice was a free application "and we want to keep it that way."