Google Voice has more than 1.4 million users, and of those, 570,000, or 40 percent, use the service every day, according to a confidential part of a letter Google sent to the FCC, which was disclosed by BusinessWeek. Additionally, according to the letter, Google may expand the service internationally. The figures on the growth and popularity of the service give some greater context to a fierce debate over the service between Google and AT&T.
Last week, Google sent a letter to the FCC about Google Voice in response to a series of questions that the FCC had posed to Google about the nature of the service. Several portions of the letter were redacted and marked as confidential. A formatting error led to the accidental publication of the confidential material. The FCC has since replaced Google's response with the version that has the material redacted.
"We had intended to keep sensitive information regarding our partners and the number of Google Voice users confidential," Google said in a statement to BusinessWeek. "Unfortunately, the PDF submitted to the FCC was formatted improperly." The confidential portions of the letter also state that Google has inked contracts with a number of "international service providers for inputs to Google Voice," but that the services had not yet been launched.
Until now the extent of Google Voice's popularity wasn't known. The service started in 2005 and remains invitation-only, yet has been the subject of an intense debate in recent weeks. AT&T has argued that the service is improperly blocking calls to rural areas and should be regulated like a traditional telephone service. Google has countered that it blocks calls to fewer than 100 specific phone numbers due to what Google said were high-cost "traffic pumping schemes." Google also said that the service 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."
In other Google news, Andy Rubin, director of mobile platforms at Google, quashed a rumor that the company was planning to release its own phone based on its Android platform. In October, TheStreet.com reported that Google was planning to release its own branded, unlocked, Android-based phone this year. Rubin said the company was not going to "compete with its customers."
"We're not making hardware," Rubin told CNET in an interview. "We're enabling other people to build hardware."
Rumor Mill: Google to make its own Android phone
Google: Call blocking on Google Voice limited
FCC opens inquiry of Google Voice
Lawmakers ask FCC to investigate Google Voice
AT&T: Google Voice should be investigated