Friday, October 9, 2009

Sex, conference calls, and outdated FCC rules

Last month AT&T complained to the FCC about our policy of restricting outbound Google Voice calls to phone numbers in a small number of "rural" areas, just as other Internet applications do.

The reason we restrict calls to certain local phone carriers' numbers is simple. Not only do they charge exorbitant termination rates for calls, but they also partner with adult sex chat lines and "free" conference calling centers to drive high volumes of traffic. This practice has been called "access stimulation" or "traffic pumping" (clearly by someone with a sense of humor). Google Voice is a free application and we want to keep it that way for all our users -- which we could not afford to do if we paid these ludicrously high charges.

Today the FCC responded to AT&T's complaint by asking us for more information about Google Voice. Google Voice is a free web application, one intended to supplement and enhance existing phone lines, not replace them. The goal of Google Voice is to provide a useful, unified communications tool (including for, among others, soldiers and the homeless). Some have observed that Google Voice is "something a real phone company should have offered years ago."

Some have pointed out that AT&T's complaints are hypocritical given that in the past they have asked the FCC for permission to block calls to these rural areas as well. Why? For exactly the same reasons we restrict them -- the exorbitant termination rates. Of course, AT&T charges customers for their services and also receives hundreds of millions of dollars in universal service subsidies.

AT&T apparently now wants web applications -- from Skype to Google Voice -- to be treated the same way as traditional phone services. Their approach is what a former FCC chairman has called "regulatory capitalism," the practice of using regulation to block or slow down innovation. And despite AT&T's lobbying efforts, this issue has nothing to do with network neutrality or rural America. This is about outdated carrier compensation rules that are fundamentally broken and in need of repair by the FCC.


Alex said...

'soldiers' and 'homeless'... Yeah, right. You forgot the scammers from outside the US who need a US phone number!

Christian said...

This is a pretty insulting comment to suggest that the point of Google Voice is to help the homeless. I mean, really, the homeless need Internet voice services to connect their cell phone, land line and office?

And regarding helping our troops. Is Google's position that our soldiers who come from rural areas shouldn't be able to call their families?

Cry me a river. AT&T may be a bunch of hypocrites but that doesn't mean Google should be also.

Too many lawyers hanging around the office these days. Don't be evil.

Seth said...
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Seth said...

@Alex & Christian -

Guys, lose the cross.

Zato said...

"And despite AT&T's lobbying efforts, this issue has nothing to do with network neutrality or rural America."

It's hard to understand why AT&T would be behind the letter from Congressmen to the FCC Chairman.

Exstatica said...

The way I see the issue is as follows...

No one has to use Google's Voice service. Its free so its more appealing but its not required.

In an Area where AT&T is the only service provider, you don't have a choice if you need phone service. Yes you can go to a cell, and yes you can go to VOIP. However if you want high speed internet at home, and cable and wireless isn't an option then DSL is the only option, and in most cases you must have a phone line. They collect Fees and a monthly service to provide you Dialtone. Google does not. It also does not provide you dial tone either.

Google does have an option to take care of the rural area issue. They could make them LD calls where you have to have credits and there is a low per minute use charge for them. At least to cover their costs.

What it comes down to is that Google Voice is free, and you get what you pay for.

tom e. said...

Yeah, it does help the homeless. Project CARE was launched by the founders of Grand Central well before the Google acquisition.

twelve345 said...

The US telecom industry is rife with corruption from top to bottom. What you are witnessing is a loosening of the grip that telecoms have held for years and all the whining that goes along with it.

C. Bowley said...

I agree with exstatica!!

To the dumbasses:

If your homeless, your probably phoneless right? Now without a phone number, how do you get a job? Ever tried to get a job without listing a phone number? How would the potential employer contact you? Maybe they'll go knock on your door? Probably not, most likely they'll hire the next guy in line. No think about this. If you wered homeless, you could go to your local library, use their internet to sign up for a GV account. You give that number to potential employers, go to the library, mcdonalds, or whever else there is free internetz, check voicemails and bum $50 for a payphone. Understand how GV could help homeless people now?

Christian said...

Tom E, the fact that GrandCentral started Project CARE is swell. Bill Gates is trying to eradicate whole diseases from Africa but I still hold a blue screen of death grudge.

The termination fees are a way to share the burden of the cost of building out that infrastructure, right? Well, if half the calls into rural areas switch to Google Voice does that mean the fees the folks with mobile phones and landlines have go up? This is about pushing ALL of the costs off of one profitable company (Google) and onto others (the local phone companies in rural areas). Sorry, greed is greed.

Rob said...

Let's see if I have this right:

1. Google can choose to avoid these fees, but AT&T cannot (by law)

2. AT&T is saying we should all have to play by the same rules.

Isn't this called 'net neutrality'? Google, you sound like the hypocrite here.

Either end the law for AT&T (unlikely unless you want to kill rural US) or require the law for Google. You simply can't have it both ways. FCC, you've got some work to do - you created this mess.

leanangle said...

No one is forcing anyone to use GV and GV is free. What isn't free is the 20 Congressmen who are getting their campaign war chests stuffed full of cash by AT&T and other special interests to keep Google from wiping out all of the redundant phone lines AT&T sells. We the people should call our elected officials and tell them to start fixing the real problems WE ELECTED THEM TO FIX.

tazman said...
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Melvin D. Albritton said...

Zato said:

"It's hard to understand why AT&T would be behind the letter from Congressmen to the FCC Chairman."

Its actually very easy. As but one example, At&t is one of Charles Melancon, (D-LA)'s top three donors according to And you are surprised he signed on to a letter supporting their position?

Brian said...

Clearly you do not have a Google voice account. One of the requirements to sign up is a US number that is verified by calling it. Options are okay educated ones are better.

When deployed you couldn't call out from GV any way that isn't how it works. But being able to have a internet accessible voice mail for free would be nice. The last time I was in Iraq I paid for a Skype In account just for the voice mail.
As for the homeless there are places, like most public libraries, where homeless can get online so again using it as a voice mail only it would give them a number where family, doctors, or possible employers could leave them a message. This could be very beatifically.

If GV is required to pick up these calls they will have to modify there setup to treat these numbers in the same way they do international, by charging.

AT&T needs to get over themselves.

The way the turn net neutrality is normally used normally used would be if AT&T tried to block GV's access across their IP infrastructure and as such is not in any way applicable to this matter.

Brendan said...

Stupidest thing I read in a long time. Google just wants to make money off people by selling all the informations they can collect on them while no forcing other companies to support their traffic and not play by the rules other companies in the same industry have to. Google is an Evil company and soon people will realize they don't care about you other than your data trail they will sell to anyone.

jordan said...

Don't get me wrong because I DO HATE big rapists like Exxon and AT&T, but...

whah! whah! boo hoo! this is hard and it costs money! who's gonna pay for this? can't everything just be free? we want to code all day and just have everything given to us because we're cool and innovative.

If Google wants to play with the big boys, then you have to do hard things like convince users to pay for stuff or figure out how to absorb costs.

The rules apply to you, Google, just as much as the jerks mentioned above.

Sable said...


"This is a pretty insulting comment to suggest that the point of Google Voice is to help the homeless. I mean, really, the homeless need Internet voice services to connect their cell phone, land line and office?"

I think the point was to help give some people opportunities by offering them a phone number they could give potential employers. They could then call in to their voicemail or forward the number to wherever they happen to be. Not everyone can afford a mobile phone or lives in a house and has a land line.

thanks Tom E. for the link :) said...

Reading many of the negative comments, I think Google has done a poor job in explaining how exactly Google Voice works to many of the folks out there. GV is still invitation only and very few has accounts. This has exacerbated the problem where people are reading how Google Voice works from lobbyist written articles and if you read many of the comments here you will find that people posting critical comments have never used Google Voice.
Google its time to create a plain and simple video about how google voice works and add it to every post you make on the subject

variable455 said...

@Christian - the homeless argument applies. maybe they don't have an office or home or mobile to receive fwded calls, but google voice does give them a phone number. as far as I know, you don't have to add a real number to the service. as soon as you get a GV number, it just works. this gives homeless a way to receive phone calls which is important if you're applying for a job, or housing or something. real phone companies won't give you a number unless you have a physical address (to connect the copper, and send a bill) .. the homeless don't really have addresses, do they? a way to get calls is very important to someone looking for housing or work.

helping the troops? sure. what if you're a soldier constantly moving around overseas.. hard for family to keep track of where you are. you just update GV with the number at your latest location, and your family only needs to remember one number as long as you keep updating your latest location. my friends brother is an AF cargo pilot, who's normal route to the Middle East is US Base, Germany, Saudi and Iraq. He'll spend a day or so in each place.. you know how hard it is to remember where he is (going to be) at any given time? When he arrives in Germany, he changes GV to ring the base there and changes it to Saudi before he leaves.

APF said...

"Some have observed.." and "Some have pointed out..."? Habeas corpus!

Google Voice is a free web application? Most things free are worth about what one pays for them... Or, is it, free, with restricted access?

Yep, and I've seen quite a few 'homeless' folks carrying smart phones around, you betcha. You GOOG folks are SOooo public spirited!

Phil Spiderman said...

I agree that the compensation rules are in dire need of some fixing, that they're the underlying problem, and this is completely unrelated to Net Neutrality.

But if Google gets to talk to the rest of the common-carrier PSTN and reap the benefits of that system, why shouldn't it be obligated to follow the same "no self help" and nondiscrimination rules as everyone else on that network? Because it's an IP device on the other end? Doesn't this open the door to sidestepping the whole "common carrier" regulatory structure? As you noted, AT&T asked the FCC for permission, it didn't just break the rules because it thought they were wrong...

Jayson Vantuyl said...

The day the I can get dial-tone from Google is the day they should be on equal footing with AT&T.

I say this because:

1) I think that Google can and would build out a world-wide phone system that would put AT&T (and all the other incumbents) to shame


2) If Google wants to terminate calls, eat the costs, and use my bandwidth (or my cell phone) to get connected to it, I feel *zero* need for AT&T to be paid four times for a single call.

Think about it. If I call someone on AT&T and my cell is on AT&T and I use the convenience of Google Voice, AT&T potentially has *FOUR* connections being paid for. There is no way that Google should be hamstrung by access legislation when they are not providing dialtone.

Hilariously, if Google uses PRI properly, they may even be able to route themselves out of the loop, saving AT&T from any extra connections. Given some of their features (call recording, which is a different, bigger ball of wax that no one has noticed yet), I doubt they take themselves out of the loop, but it's still possible. Of course, I wonder if Google even backhauls across AT&T's lines or uses their own fiber (yet again, saving AT&T money).

Menno said...

homeless with smartphone? Homeless don't need smartphones to use GV, all they need are library cards.

as for the "google should pay like everyone else" argument.. The problem with that is that ATT, Verizon, Frontier, etc. all charge you money for a dialtone. they are providing a telephone line to you.

GV gives you a single number that can ring through on ANY line. It does not give you a telephone line (you need to be paying one of these companies to use GV, or use a payphone, which another company owns) all it allows you to do is to have one number for people to reach you, no matter where you currently are, or what that actual number is. They are a call forewarding service.

Why should they have to "play by the same rules as telecoms" when they are not a telecom?

Aaron Sarazan said...

To all the people bitching that they're "excluding the rural communites" line, try educating yourselves about the situation before you go frothing on the internet.

The reason nobody wants to serve these communities is because they literally do charge EXORBITANT connection prices. They know that REAL phone carriers (note: that's the company that actually has to provide dialtone service, NOT a company that provides an internet service, which IS legally exempt from the laws that AT&T are trying to invoke)-- the real carriers are forced to provide connection, and by hosting numerous sex lines and other high-demand services, they know they can jack up the connection costs to the carriers and make a killing (that's textbook definition non-elastic pricing/demand for those of you who managed to graduate high school).

So there you have it: The reason nobody wants to serve them is because they're scumbag carpetbagging assholes.

End of story, get off your high horse. Google has gotten worryingly big, but get off the fucking bandwagon already.

genei.09 said...

Ah the internet, full of so many know-it-alls incapable of using the English language correctly.

As has been said GV is not a telephony service it is a call handling service. A glorified digital operator if you would. GV is used by many to subvert additional costs via myfaves, calling circle and etc. There are limited avenues for Google to take to prevent people from attempting to subvert paying for 1-800-sex-nmbr. GV also provides a free text messaging service.

How does this benefit the homeless? I think people have missed one very large aspect of being homeless. Shelters. Places where people can sleep, eat, etc. Just being homeless doesn't mean you live in a card board box. At a shelter you will have access to a phone, and in many cases even a computer. As one moves from one shelter to another, or from a shelter to a home again, or if one found themselves in dire straits going from a home to a shelter GV provides a single phone number for contact. Be it for family, friends, or employers.

How does it benefit Soldiers? In some ways Soldiers are homeless also. Living in bunks, dorms, constantly being shifted from one base, location, or deployment to another. Providing access to voicemail via the internet, transcribed in email, able to send text messages from a web interface for free are huge boons to people traveling all over the country and even more so to those traveling the world.

Steve said...

I would recommend that before anyone posts to this they get a few facts.
Google Voice is at best a web application PBX that I still have to have at least ONE phone number that isn't Googles to use. It is a free solution that costs me more with Verizon because I use more of my monthly minutes routing through it. This cost is nothing compared to the other web PBX services I have paid for in the past.

Please also note that link given above is for the homeless service which to the best I can tell is on a different set of rules than normal users. Check it out homeless can have phones.

This is an ill conceived attempt to get Google to back off there net neutrality platform. Which benefits every whiny little baby on this post including me.
I personally love the service and hope to see more features added.

Vishnu Gopal said...

I think what's key here is that Google Voice, regardless of its myriad explanations that it's just a web service, *is* a telecommunications provider as non-technical people understand the term, and should be subject to the same restrictions. I really don't see AT&T's "hypocrisy" here at all—it's just preventing a possible competitor from getting a leg up.

genei.09 said...

"I really don't see AT&T's "hypocrisy" here at all—it's just preventing a possible competitor from getting a leg up."

First of all GV isn't a competitor. They don't provide dial tone, access to emergency services, or the ability to place calls without already having access to a phone number. GV is an enhancement to an existing phone service or stand alone voicemail and text messaging service.

The hypocrisy as described above is that AT&T tried to block calls to the same areas but were denied, and are now trying to prevent others from doing the same as a giant smoke screen to the fact that they in combination with Apple were being investigated for their removal of GV from the iPhone App store. AT&T's primary interest in the matter? The methods by which calls are routed and the costs to them, and text messaging. Text messaging is one of the biggest scams in the industry. The infrastructure for text messaging already existed and really pushes no cost to them, yet everyone charges a premium for the ability to use a technology as old as cellphone voicemail.

Alex said...


Clearly you do not have a Google voice account. One of the requirements to sign up is a US number that is verified by calling it. Options are okay educated ones are better."

Clearly, you are not a scammer or haven't heard about them much. The scammer ASKS SOMEBODY to verify his/her number ONCE, then the scammer uses the log-in/password to access the SMS (that are used by many security providers to make security checks, in Europe - it's a part of security scheme IN EVERY BANK THAT HAS A WEB-SITE).

That's how it works. Go do the rest of your homework and you will know how this is 'Evil' big time!

Peter A. Stinson said...

I'm with Google on this one... they're not a phone service; they're a free web application. Perhaps this is the call we need to re-rack telecom oversight in the USA?

Ryan said...

As a former homeless person, let me just say thank you to Google (and GrandCentral before them) for providing this service. Without it, I would hardly have found the job and apartment I did so quickly. I wish more people knew about this. I once visited a Catholic mission where they had computers with internet for the people there but they did not know about Google Voice. People there mostly had to rely on getting job offers and information through email, and as someone has pointed out, if an employer sees you don't have a phone number and can't get a hold of you, they are very likely to move on to the next candidate.

So thank you Google Voice for allowing me some level of normalcy and connected-ness while trying to get back on my feat. I hope the FCC does all it can to allow this amazing service to reach as many people as possible.

Bupahs said...

To all of you that do not seem to grasp the 'homeless' and 'soldiers' comment:

1. Homeless also applies to those that have lost their homes due to fire, flood etc and are residing in family houses, missions or friends homes.
2. Soldiers with a LOCAL number can be reached free from long distance charges.. overseas aint close people.

Anyway, I have no doubt the FCC will see through AT&T's posturing, its fairly obvious.

Mikhail Kozlov said...

American Rural areas?! In Russia local carriers try to outlaw Skype and other VoIP services all together on federal level. This is just WRONG!

Essie Javaheri said...

some one said; 'soldiers' and 'homeless'... Yeah, right. You forgot the scammers from outside the US who need a US phone number!'
I believe a phone number should be available for everyone in this world even if it is a Google voice coming from USA, as long as he or she is willing to pay the price even if it is for free and as long as it is being complied with. This new innovation reminds me in a way of freedom of speech! AT&T is obviously is hypocrisy mode is so frightened and is in the wrong track in mirage and moving against the will of the people. I am more than willing to fight for Google Voice to protect Google Voice from harms way as I believe it is on the very right track. VIVA GOOGLE!

hurtbygoogle said...

I work for a small company that competes against google. I expect our competition to be on equal grounds.

Thus, my oppinion is that google, which is accessing the PSTN system should be governed by the same regulation goveringing intercarrier access as any other company. All other agruements are just smoke and mirrors.

Furthermore, I believe google is a monopoly and is competing unfairly in many markets. Google voice is free even thought it does not have a business model that can support free. Google is subsidizing the investment in one market (voip and unified communications) from its search advertising business. They are doing this to try and grab a foothold in mobile voip in its early stages.

How is google a monopoly? Google has 60% search market share in the US, and up to 90% share in many countries. If you are an advertiser, you only have one choice, Google. If you are a device maker and would like to include search, you only have one choice. The subtle thing is that this is the first advertising supported monopoly the world has seen. So, the arguement about free to the consumer is popular and effective.

I believe google should be barred from using its search monopoly to subsidize entrance into other markets.


Hansa said...

We need GV in Norway! That´s all there is to say!

Tom said...

Why doesn't Google charge for calls to these rural numbers? It would be similar to the way phone companies charge for long distance calls, would allow you to call any number from Google voice and Google stands to make a little money from it.

exutable said...

Hey Google,

I respect what you're trying to do, please keep up the good work.

It's bullshit that people are giving you shit about this. You guys are offering a free service that nobody is forced to use. AT&T can get off their high fucking horse and start working on things like data liberation, open-source projects and other cool things that we all benefit from instead of things that benefit their corporate finances.


Craig said...

Google provides unlimited long distance within the US including calls to outer states Alaska and Hawaii and free long distance to Canada from the US.
How does this not help the poor and the homeless? Does it help them? You bet. The only problem here is getting Google Voice into their hands. =)
So about AT&T. If we haven't figured out they operate off a skewed underlying corrupt policy then we're living in ignorance and stupidity.
Of course they're going to cry to controlling government agencies to get their despicable controlling, overpriced way.
Google Voice is an amazing service. I discontinued my long distance through Verizon landline because I have Google Voice. It's amazing.
Thank you Google. Keep up the good fight.

Bastion said...

Just because the service is free, doesn't mean that it is exempt from regulation. Also, just because Google doesn't charge the end-user, don't believe Google doesn't make money on this. Do you think they would have bought the technology in the first place just to give it way out of the goodness of their hearts? They're a business, people - a for-profit business.

The FCC regulates "communications", which is an application, not a technology. The Internet didn't exist when the FCC was created, yet it regulates it because clearly people use it to communicate.

Likewise, GV is used by people to communicate to other people, and so is probably subject to FCC regulation. Probably.

That's the thing with new technology - it takes a while to soak and for problems like this to get worked out. During the transition, however, you can bet that the companies involved will clamor for whatever government intervention will give them an advantage.

It's best for us, however, not to make a "religion" of this and demonize one side or the other (you know, like radio and tv commentators try to get us to do with politics, etc.). What we need to do is keep an open mind and try to sort out the facts from the spin. AT&T isn't evil, and Google isn't some sort of benevolent savior. They are both just companies trying to turn a profit through better capture of market share.

But if we give into the emotion and name-calling, we're the suckers, and deserve to get shafted.

Ted Howard said...

So Google can just ignore every law that it doesn't agree with? Does Google maintain a list of what laws they refuse to follow, or should we be left to guess on our own? Does Google also feel that consumer protection and privacy laws in Europe are "outdated"?
The hubris of Google continues to frighten and amaze.

Craig said...

Google turn a profit with Google Voice? That would be terrible.
Someone wants the FCC to regulate giving people free long distance and a free virtual phone number. The issue isn't complicated. It's very simple. Google isn't doing anything illegal. I think the laws get complicated when government agencies overreach constitutional law. I know some disagree and they believe the government should have controls in everything. Of course many, including myself, strongly disagree.

jon_snow said...

I am google. I am sooo special. I connect calls using web servers instead of pbx's. oh yea. everythings different. I write software in html instead of C. Its a web app. No laws apply. Lets pick on at&t. They are the only company bigger than us. Maybe no one will notice.

sergie said...

google is evil. AT&T should give away "Free" discounts to the internet that connects everything but google. How can you argue with it. Its FREEEEEEEE!!!! ha ha ha

Arvind said...

why at&t blocks certain services like google voice or torrents on there network is if they did then the internet costs they charge is not feasible for them. same for google voice if they provide access to rural areas then the charges for google voice(0$) are not feasible for them. Still some people find justification for google's action while shouting loudly against AT&T

Craig said...

I cannot stand AT&T.

Bastion said...

"Craig said...
I cannot stand AT&T."

Well, there you have it: it all comes down to a subjective emotion - and we should all abide by Craig's emotions, and government regulation should be shaped by Craig's emotions...


Craig said...

AT&Ts practices have shaped the emotion I have towards them. OK Data?

ankur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

I (and several other friends) have been dropped by AT&T mobile because we spent too much time calling and using data in an area that it was getting charged too much by another carrier.

Although I don't like the idea of Google Voice limiting access to its service, it isn't a service that's needed to use a telephone so I don't think that AT&T's complaints will hold up...especially if AT&T is performing much stronger actions against it's own customers for similar challenges.

Justin said...

re: the homeless

To quote the project care page,

No longer will the pay phone at the local shelter be the only way to reach a homeless client. Whether applying for a job, waiting for medical test results, or trying to get in touch with family, Project CARE provides homeless clients with link to the real world and an ability to connect.

Wingless said...

I like how nobody has bothered to look at the underlying issue - the traffic pumping schemes proliferated by those select rural carriers.

Past that, this boils down to what is the FCC regulation involving this particular circumstance? Does it need to change? I work in telecom, and as far as I can tell, Google does not provide the dial tone, and therefore is not at fault for blocking certain exchanges.

I haven't left the obligatory ignorant comment like seems to be par for this thread, so here it is: "I disconnect all outgoing 900 calls that try to leave my contact center. I must not be very net neutral for dictating who the staff can't call..."

Neil Mix said...

If the rule is broken, why are you whining about AT&T? The natural conclusion here is that the FCC is the problem and AT&T is just background noise. We can all see that you benefit from status quo, which is why this post is so disingenuous. Rather than a cry for action at the FCC, you're crying for AT&T to back off. If you'd meant what you said about broken FCC rules, you'd instead be offering to team up with AT&T to stand up against the FCC.

Richard said...


Clearly you do not have a Google voice account. One of the requirements to sign up is a US number that is verified by calling it. Options are okay educated ones are better."

Educated ones *are* better:

1. Find a PBX/VoIP provider such as Link2Voip (the small-time local provider I use - there are literally hundreds).

2. Purchase a US DID for about a buck.

3. Set up said DID into your home PBX.

4. Have GVoice call it - which then rings your PBX which can be *anywhere in the world*.

5. Remove the DID (which is no longer needed) - or keep it if you wish.

Wow - didn't take me more than 10 minutes of work/effort to get a GVoice number from outside of the USA. Now I can have my friends in the USA SMS my GVoice number which then forwards that to my GMail.

Educated ones are better, indeed.

Jen Easton said...

wow there are some real idiots posting comments here.

They simply have no clue what they're talking about and are a little drunk off AT&T's coolaid.




I hope that cleared some of that up. Please just do 5 minutes of research before you post any comments here.

John said...

First, It all depends on how the term "Telco" is defined plain and simple. If Google are within the letter of the law then they should be fine. What might cause less friction is simply charging a fee for terminating calls in in rural higher cost areas. If anything, GV is no different in practice than using a calling card. You add minutes to your card and then make calls on top of their supplied 800 number. Whatever laws govern that *might* also apply to GV *maybe*.

Second, as for AT&T's take on this, they're just trying to deflect some heat from this whole "GV kicked from the appstore mess" but, again depending on the wording of the law on what constitutes a telco, I don't see GV as a telco. Again, no dial tone, only a voicemail service. (Is this part of the telco definition? Whether or not the spirit rather than the letter of the law is violated is smoke and mirrors - companies including AT&T do it and have done it for years, Google just happens to be more visible about it than most. Here's a similar illustration: a *new* service provider goes into an established market and low ball's their price under what the other *established* service providers have unofficially agreed upon. In so doing, they are not breaking a law, however they are pissing off their competitors, showing them up. In turn, ANY fault, or sidestep of the law by the *new* service provider becomes the subject of a complaint made by *established* service providers to whoever regulates the business as a matter of protecting their own market share.

Third, by using GV the consumer also avoids certain lock-in problems the true telcos almost rely on as an unofficial part of the business model. To the consumer, it means it no longer matters what number you use. If anyone trying to reach you has your GV number then you can use whatever company is cheapest (possibly not AT&T) and still keep your number, and key features like voicemail and sms independent of them. (In that specifically I say 'cry me a river AT&T')

The problem is the playing field is changed completely because in times past, any network that anything happened on was owned by some company who could charge. No one *Owns* the internet and so how you make money is, *complicated*. It's the digital wild wild west with no physical boundaries or borders and everyone, including the FCC is trying to figure it out and revamp laws made when the only computers were owned by the government, or universities - not to mention the size of tractor trailers :-)

Google is basically doing for the consumer, what many companies should have done, and either can't or won't do. I just hope as the company grows up, that they don't become guilty the same as the companies they are trying to positively :-) influence. Lastly, I think Bastions comments are mostly right on. Each of these companies are 'for profit' businesses out to make money in the end and none of us should become zealots developing emotions that are shaped by bloggers or the media. If we do, then we're sheep that deserve to be herded along.

Victor said...

Google is being very hypocritical here, they previously paid Navteq, and now TeleAtlas MILLIONS to offer their data as part of their Google Maps service for free. Thus running a lot of smaller companies out of business.

They don't seem to care about paying exorbitant fees when it means they can corner a market. Since they aren't going to be able to do that with the telecom industry, they choose to try and see what they can get away with. Plane and simple!

Joel said...

What I don't understand is why this practice is going on in the first place. It seems to me that it isn't a big secret. People know that these areas are charging ridiculous amounts for phone calls.

How hard would it be to introduce legislation that basically says "Hey, you can't do this anymore, it's an unfair practice"

zelrik said...

I think the problem here are the laws. They need to be changed (for the better of course).

stormlifter said...

This is a really great article. Nice to see Google speaking up. Other companies should take notes. It's nice to know that Google doesn't plan on using the government as a crutch for when their business is failing to innovate like AT&T is.

First Name said...


So Puerto Rico is full of sex lines? What, spanish speaking sl*ts?

That is why this week you decided to exclude Puerto Rico when adding the other two non-continuous US jurisdictions of Alaska and Hawaii?

I had never been so offended, and I think that puertorricans had never
been so insulted by what used to be an admired company.

You owe 8 millions of US citizens in Puerto Rico and the mainland an apology. Google has never been very sensitive of other cultures in their products (like Contacts inability to support spaces in last names like "de la Cruz"), but this time it has been too much.

Tom said...

Google is in the right here. AT&T is attempting to define Google Talk as a telecommunications company that is required to provide service to even these high cost rural exchanges, but it's evident that Google is not subject to that requirement because they don't have access to the Universal Service Fund that subsidizes telecommunications companies to operate in rural areas.

Further, Google's reason isn't so much because of the high cost of doing business with rural America, but with dealing with the handful of rural telcoms that have decided to game the system by hosting chat lines in their exchanges in order to drive volume into their artificially high cost long distance service. It's the equivalent of Google Talk patching you through to 900 numbers for free. If you called a number in one of these exchanges from a landline, AT&T would definitely pass the cost on to you as your phone bill would have a 99 cents a minute long distance call.

Killa Kev said...

Google Voice is a great service, but let's be clearly honest here, there is spin doctoring abounds by all.

First, Google is right - the source of this problem is a few rural calling areas which have been hijacking connection fees for other carriers to connect to them. I love, but their "free" service isn't free to telecoms who are trying to connect their customers, and by law the telecoms cannot pass those connection fees to the consumers.

Connection fees should be standardized across the entire United States. It's time for the FCC to do the FAIR and RIGHT thing.

But Google isn't innocent here, and AT&T *IS* correct. Just like AT&T wants to use regulatory controls to assert its dominance by insisting Google Voice behave like a telephone provider, Google Voice is insisting that its telephony product is not a telephone service but a data service, and should be treated as such instead.

Can Google explain, exactly, how Google Voice is not the same as Skype, Vonage and other VoIP providers? IMO, once their service connects to the POTS telecom system, it stops being a data service and it starts acting as a provider of telephone service, which puts it under the power of the FCC.

And, just like rural area code providers should follow the rules, and just like AT&T should follow the rules, Google should ALSO follow the rules. That is the FAIR and RIGHT thing to do. Google Voice is disruptive technology that, once it is unleashed on the entire public, will force the giant telecoms to be more realistic with their pricing.

me said...

GV is a call forwarding system at its basis. In order to even use GV you need a number. This is not a replacement to a phone but an enhancement. That is where ATTs ground slips from them. Along with this as Google states. ATT gets ALOT of govt subsidies. For FCC to be enforcing these same laws then I hope they are prepared to pay google for the privilege of enforcing them.

And for the one that stated about the homeless and soldiers. Try clicking the link next time in regards to the charity programs they setup. GV not only allows you to fwd calls but also is a nice acting online Voicemail system that can be accessed from remote pcs when having access. Kinda like when a homeless man can get access at a library, or a soldier can when at base. instead of waiting HOURS in line for a phone.

Killa Kev said...

me said: "GV is a call forwarding system at its basis. In order to even use GV you need a number. This is not a replacement to a phone but an enhancement."

Unless Google Voice piggybacks on your existing telephone service, then it is not an extension of your phone service. You have to register your own home telephone with it as part of verification, but it is a separate telephony product in and of itself.

internetjason said...

HOMELESS = YES. I've seen some critical comments regarding the notion that Google Voice can help the homeless and let me assure you that it can. There are pre-pay plans and disposable phones that are cheap enough for even someone who is homeless. The benefits are obvious: 911 calls if needed, looking for jobs, getting a hold of friends, etc. One major problem is if they put a phone # on a job application but lose the phone or minutes run out, they've lost that # forever. I have homeless friends who I can't get a hold of anymore because they've had to change #s so many times. Having 1 # via GV would be a huge benefit for these folks.

Btw, my perspective comes from having spent time with homeless people near my office during lunch, twice a week, for at least a year now.

Steve said...

Killa Kev said "Google Voice is disruptive technology that, once it is unleashed on the entire public, will force the giant telecoms to be more realistic with their pricing."

Google voice is not a disruptive technology, but a convenient program to filter out the disruptive phone calls throughout the day. There was a product similar to this that would connect to your home phone. I didn't see ATT calling that a Telecom.

Also I wouuld like to see how Google Voice is like Skype or any of the other VoIP services. I can't call directly from GV. I need a cell or home line that I pay for with a dial tone to make the call. Yes even with the GV app on my blackberry it is calling my cell phone and connecting the two calls.

Now if google were to introduce a SIP phone or even a softphone so I can call with my computers headset like the VOIP providers that would Make them a Telecom.

(Note: If GV were to start offering a Sip service phone so that I didn't need another line I would totally make the switch and drop my land line)

If ATT wants to treat them like a Telecom watch out they may start acting like a Telecom and how many customers is ATT willing to lose on this tit-for-tat right now.

Killa Kev said...

Steve said: "I can't call directly from GV. I need a cell or home line that I pay for with a dial tone to make the call. Yes even with the GV app on my blackberry it is calling my cell phone and connecting the two calls."

Google Voice does not transfer the call to your phone. It calls out to your phone to connect your phone to GV. GV then forwards your call to the destination. It is Google Voice, not your phone, which is connecting to the public phone network. It is your Google Voice phone number that shows up on the caller ID.

That makes Google Voice a telephony product, and as such it is no different than AT&T or any other provider connecting to the phone network.

Steve said...

Killa Kev said "Google Voice does not transfer the call to your phone. It calls out to your phone to connect your phone to GV. GV then forwards your call to the destination. It is Google Voice, not your phone, which is connecting to the public phone network. It is your Google Voice phone number that shows up on the caller ID.

That makes Google Voice a telephony product, and as such it is no different than AT&T or any other provider connecting to the phone network."

When I make a phone call from the house I pick up the receiver dial the number the call is then routed through the POTS to its destination. AT&T does not call me to get my # on the Caller ID. I would however agree that this makes it a telephony product which is not a service provider. Like AT&T but an accessory like Cisco SIP phones and PBX boxes. I prefer Asterisk.
Now more to the Big Picture, GV may fall under the Enhanced Service Providers similar to independant Voicemail systems. This does not make them a 'common carrier' but similar to the rules of ISP's. Also I would like to note that I don't see where a VOIP service is classified as 'common carrier' in the FCC rules for VOIP.
Also to note that if Google where to stay an invite only service. That would be a private service and make them exempt from most of the rules for either PTSN or VOIP.

The only certainties I see are: 1)that there will be a new definition of the regulations. (The last time they changed FCC rules for telecomms it took 10 Years) 2)AT&T got the spotlight away from themselves for blocking the GV App, there lacking of net neutrality, and from what I am told poor 3G service.

Still love the Google Voice Service and look forward to seeing if I am right.

Bhuvaneshwari said...

As a public librarian, I know that several homeless citizens and others without Internet do use the public library's computers on a regular basis and they will indeed benefit from having a service like this.

Kyle Matheny said...

I would like to know how many of you that claim GV to be a telecomm company actually have a GV account and understand its use. My guess is that 8/10 posters on here saying that GV needs to abide to telecomm rules are without a GV account- and that 2/10 is the person that doesn't understand its usage and thinks it'll replace their existing phone line.

I still have my service contract that I pay each month. Without a service provider, GV is just a free web application (which is still very useful, as others have mentioned.) GV does not provide you with an actual line of communication, they're just giving you the ability to manage what you already have.

I like what someone else said, about how GV acts more like your personal operator.

And the sad part is that Google is trying to innovate on an old technology, and for that, we should be thankful.

It's a free service. If you don't like it, don't use it.

All I really want is for those that say GV is wrong in what it's doing, and trying to do this and that- get a GV account, force yourself to use it for a month, and then if you have something to complain about, do so with your new education.

LarryF said...

Sex, conference calls. nuns, doctors and congressman?

No witty response yet from the lawyers at Google?

C'mon guys, don't disappoint us...tell 'em that homeless bit again.

toddlorensinclair said...

I think a lot of people misunderstand what google voice actually is.

You don't make phone calls with it ... there is no dial tone ... its a call forwarding service.

You sign up giving your home or office or cell phone. You are issued a google voice number.

You can give that number out as your phone number and when people call it the call will be directed to the phone number you specified on your google voice .. ie .. your home or cell or office.

It has some added features like voice mail and email alerts and voice message transcription ...

Bottom line is its only a call forwarding service. Its not saving anyone the price of the call from their home or cell or office ... its strictly a convenience feature.

Currently its free and by invitation only ...

Scr3wlo0se said...

I'll consider Google Voice a Phone service when i can actually make a call from it without having to use another phone service. Even on a PC you still have to use gizmo, skype or another VoIP service at the same time to make a call. Right now it offers no real phone calling service all it does is bridge to calls together. Additionally as stated earlier it is a beta software that is not available to the general public. If AT&T is concerned then they should build a better service and stop crying about their failures.

billy396 said...

AT&T is right that Google should be regulated for what they are providing. Google is simply trying to maximize its' profits without paying for the use of the lines. AT&T has spent untold billions of dollars over the years to build up the infrastructure that Google depends on. AT&T built, owns and maintains the lines which Google is using. The internet is dependent on landlines - copper wire and fiber optics that were built by and are owned by AT&T and others. Google is a service provider and should be regulated accordingly. You can't build a cell tower without using landlines. If Google wants to try to build its' own infrastructure, then they are free to do so. In the meantime, let them be regulated and pay for the use of lines just like AT&T or any other service provider.

aldo said...

Why does everyone keep saying Google Voice isn't a telephony service? Take a look at the Wikipedia article for Google Voice ( "Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral) is a telecommunications service by Google[1] launched on March 11, 2009."

Oh look! It says TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICE, therefore, any and all FCC rules about providing a phone service/whatever apply to Google Voice. It doesn't matter that the service is free, laws still apply.

Basically, and this is the way I see it, you guys think that as long as someone provides a free service, even if there are laws about it, it won't apply to said service because it is free, but of course, that isn't true. No one forced anyone to make free services, no one forced Google to make Google Voice free. That is their preference, and they will need to suffer the consequences, if you want to put it that way.

Anyways, in the end. You can all (including Google themselves) call the law stupid, retarded, moronic, idiotic, pointless, dumb, restricting, etc. but that won't do anything, it is a law, and until that law is changed or removed as a whole, it applies to whatever the law is about.

Terry Pearson said...

Representative Joe Atkins of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota has recently said he will start trying to force Google to provide service to the problem areas that Google had mentioned.

Whenever lawmakers get involved in business decisions, it just drives up costs for us end users.

I, for one, like my free Google Voice, and I do not want it jeopardized by some technology ignorant lawmaker.

People need to understand that this is more of a forwarding service, and that you must already have a normal phone number to participate.

Killa Kev said...

The lawmaker may or may not be technologically ignorant. That doesn't matter. Google Voice may be free, that doesn't matter. Google Voice may "just" be a forwarding service, and that doesn't matter.

What matters is this:
1) Google Voice has to connect to the public telephone network in order to operate
2) Any product or service that connects to the public telephone network is automatically under the regulation of the FCC
3) The FCC has ruled multiple times that all providers and services under its jurisdiction must not ever block access to this one exchange, even if this exchange is allowing this abuse to continue.

I encourage Google to work with AT&T, Verizon and other telephony providers, and that they should all raise public awareness on this issue and encourage people to complain to the FCC about this issue.

At no time, however, should Google be allowed or encouraged to violate the law just because this application is free and Google does not want to be burdened with the costs of doing business.

acadien said...

google please disable these posts... they hurt my eyes...

bryan said...

For all you morons focused on homeless: PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL!
"...(including for, among others, soldiers and the homeless)."

See the "including" part?

I'm trying to understand why there are so many whiners.

I really can't understand why society is so against natural selection. Cull the weak and stupid.

Steve said...

@Aaron Sarazan - THANK YOU.
I work for a carrier and agree 100% with you on this. People don't understand the MILLIONS we have to pay every few months to these rural carriers. We're paying on average .5-1mil a month to rural carriers - tell me that doesn't hurt business a little eh?

I agree with what GV is doing and think they need to keep it up. Someone needs to force these little guys out of business and make them adapt to fair termination fees!!

Mecca4BA said...

It's really funny how some of these folks characterize "Homeless". Not all of your homeless people out there are dirty, sleeping on park benches and such... and there are some who do own cellular phones. Hell, I'm homeless, AND I have a blackberry. Google Voice has been QUITE useful to me,