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Summary:

[qi:090] Even though less than 1 percent of the population uses Google Voice, David Erickson, president of the Free Conferencing Corp., a conference call company whose numbers are blocked by the service, is pretty aggrieved. So he met with the FCC and filed a letter urging […]

[qi:090] Even though less than 1 percent of the population uses Google Voice, David Erickson, president of the Free Conferencing Corp., a conference call company whose numbers are blocked by the service, is pretty aggrieved. So he met with the FCC and filed a letter urging the regulatory agency to get Google to play fair. He also offered to help Google find lower rates for its rural call termination fees. “Google shouldn’t be able to tell consumers where they can call and where they can’t,”  he said in an interview with The Hill, a trade publication.

Actually, I’m with him on this issue. Erickson’s company may be taking advantage of a legal loophole that the telecommunications companies and now Google want closed, but it’s not clearly illegal (although the loophole is closing). And by providing voice service for customers even as an “Internet application” Google’s decision to limit certain aspects of the service because of the costs might be reasonable for a restaurant owner running a buffet, but is less so for someone providing a telecommunications service.

Such so-called traffic pumping is an issue the FCC has known about for a while, so clearly companies like Erickson’s, which appear to be benefiting from an arbitrage play that boosts costs for carriers that have to terminate calls on higher-cost rural lines, haven’t been morally repugnant enough to get the FCC or Congress to take definitive action to stop them.

Erickson doesn’t think the FCC should step in at all on the issue of overhauling the pricing schemes that result in higher termination costs on rural lines (and generates sales at his company), he says in a letter filed this week with the FCC, but he does request more scrutiny over Google Voice. He’s lost me at this point. If you’re gonna run to a regulator to force someone to play your game, you can’t get upset when the regulator wants to make sure the rules by which you play that game are fair.

  1. Google isn’t stopping consumers from calling the “free” conferencing service. They are free to use other lines — ones they pay the long-distance charges for — to call Erickson’s traffic-pumping outfit. Google is paying for the calls placed on its service, which it offers only to chosen participants, for free. GigaOM provides free access to its online articles and posts. Is it required to give space to anyone who wants it to reach your readers? Of course not.

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    1. David Erickson Friday, November 6, 2009

      All services chose or invite their users… Are you saying that AT&T does t have the right to refuse service.

      Once you offer that service to a user if it is connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network that service should play by the rules of the PSTN or it should not interconnect

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      1. It is reasonable to hold AT&T and Google to different standards.

        First, AT&T requires direct access to public properties for their wiring and cell towers, and companies that require such access must make concessions.

        Second, as others have pointed out, Google’s restricting certain numbers does *not* restrict people from dialing those numbers, since callers can still use the primary carriers (wireline and cellular carriers) currently required for any Google Voice call. They just can’t do it for free.

        Google is offering a free service that does not require public subsidy (access to roadbeds), and the way they configure that service only alters pricing and does not restrict access. Do we really want our government to tell such a business that they have to pay off scammers in order to continue operations?

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  2. David Erickson Friday, November 6, 2009

    I don’t think the FCC needs to regulate more they need to investigate why Google pays .39 to locations that have rates of .02. Who is placing the 2,000% markup on the rates that make them high cost.

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  3. Unfortunately for this whiny little man (and his buddy Robert “W.” Quinn), the FCC was given absolutely zero authority by congress to regulate computer software.

    1934 act of Congress granted Federal government limited jurisdiction over equipment used in the transmission of wire and radio communications.

    Anytime the FCC tries to fuck with (i.e. “censor”) any aspect whatsoever of the communications themselves, especially the DISCRETIONARY RECEIPT of PRIVATE communications (LOL, i.e., “picking up your phone”), they just end up getting f’d right back:

    FOR example:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals:
    American Library Association v. Federal Communications Commission:

    “The FCC argues that the Commission has “discretion” to exercise “broad authority” over equipment used in connection with radio and wire transmissions, “when the need arises, even if it has not previously regulated in a particular area.” FCC Br. at 17. This is an extraordinary proposition. “The [Commission’s] position in this case amounts to the bare suggestion that it possesses plenary authority to act within a given area simply because Congress has endowed it with some authority to act in that area. We categorically reject that suggestion. Agencies owe their capacity to act to the delegation of authority” from Congress. See Ry. Labor Executives’ Ass’n, 29 F.3d at 670. The FCC, like other federal agencies, “literally has no power to act . . . unless and until Congress confers power upon it.” La. Pub. Serv. Comm’n v. FCC, 476 U.S. 355, 374 (1986). In this case, all relevant materials concerning the FCC’s jurisdiction – including the words of the Communications Act of 1934, its legislative history, subsequent legislation, relevant case law, and Commission practice – confirm that the FCC has no authority to regulate consumer electronic devices that can be used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission.”

    (http://bit.ly/H8MHL)

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    1. Google says in the NY Tmes that instead of costs of one-half a cent to 3 cents to the areas they are blocking that google has to pay 12, 14 and even 25 cents so they are blocking the calls to free conferencing services.

      Rates between 2 and 3 cents to the locations Google is blocking are available. so why block?

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      1. Because a call to one building is $0.005 – $0.03 while these companies next door use a legal loophole to charge $0.25. Thus Google does not have the same low cost option to them that it does to their neighbor.

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      2. David Erickson Monday, November 9, 2009

        Eric you need to do some research and stop drinking the punch. I know what numbers Google blocks and I know the rates to the less than 100 numbers they are blocking. 2 to 3 cents they might pay 25 but they don’t have to. Why they don’t pay the lower amount is not anyones fault but google.

        No building next door. No loophole. No need to pay 25 cents.

        So why do they say they have to pay 25 cents… So they have a reason to block?

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  4. I can think of few things sillier than requiring Google’s 21st century voice service to comply with 75 year old rules meant for Common Carriers. Is this where people think we should be spending our tax dollars? What happened to forward progress? The US is screwed if this is how people think we will compete on a global scale.

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  5. I think the solution is fairly easy. If you happen call one of the numbers Google Voice is blocking, they could take you to a VRU where a message is played and you are asked for your credit card number. If you choose to enter your card number, you are charged $1 for the call.

    For a very small amount of phone numbers there would be a charge. That way the call could go through and the costs would be covered.

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    1. this way they have your credit card number along with all the other data they’re collecting on you. no thanks.

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      1. Jerry Vandesic Sunday, November 8, 2009

        That’s fine. If the call isn’t completed, Google doesn’t have to pay the connect fee. Everyone is happy.

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    2. David Erickson Monday, November 9, 2009

      Jerry, Google just needs to change from one wholesaler to another and get rates that are 10 to 20 times lower.

      No need to punish the consumer with charging them 50 times more.

      The problem is that you only know what google pays and you don’t know what the tariffs are or the commercial agreement rates.

      Which makes your solution crazy!

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  6. [...] Free Conferencing CEO Asks FCC to Keep on Google Voice | GigaOM [...]

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  7. Another solutions might be for Google to start offering free conferencing, especially for users that already using their service, if it is good perhaps people will start switching from using those other free conferencing. I know I’ll use it.

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    1. David Erickson Monday, November 9, 2009

      They already do

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  8. [...] look at what BT is attempting to do or services like Google Voice. This is where FCC efforts in traffic pumping and net neutrality come so strongly into play. In the circuit-switched network, telecommunications [...]

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