Google said it has found a way to restrict call blocking on its Google Voice service to fewer than 100 specific phone numbers, the latest twist in a battle that has pitted the Internet search giant against AT&T, with the FCC as a moderator.
In response to an FCC inquiry on Google Voice, Google said that beginning in July it began noticing "extremely high-cost calls to a concentrated number of destinations." In fact, Google said, the top 10 telephone prefixes generated more than 160 times the expected call volume. The company suspected that certain numbers were engaging in high-cost "traffic pumping schemes," and local carriers were charging high rates to connect the calls in rural areas. In August, the company began blocking the calls.
In September, AT&T asked the FCC to look into the service, arguing it violated both federal call-blocking regulations and net neutrality principles. Google reiterated its position in its response to the FCC that Google Voice should not be regulated like a traditional telephone service because it is a "Web-based software application" that is "completely distinct from the user's telephone access lines/services."
Google said in a blog post on the topic that its engineers have developed new techniques since the call blocking began to block only calls to numbers that engaged in "high-cost 'traffic pumping' schemes, like adult chat and 'free' conference call lines." The call blocking now occurs on a more "granular" level, wrote Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel.
"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," Whitt said. "The current system simply does not serve consumers well and these types of schemes point up the pressing need for reform."
An FCC spokeswoman said the commission had no comment on Google's response, and did not comment on the status of the FCC's investigation into Google Voice.
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