AT&T (NYSE: T) said if regulators are considering new “net neutrality” rules for wired and wireless networks, then they should also regulate companies like Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which are started to roll out competing phone-like services, Reuters reports. Following the letter, Google fired back by writing a post on its blog about how Google Voice should not be regulated and the FCC does not have the jurisdiction to do so (Update after the jump…).
In a letter to the FCC, Robert Quinn, AT&T’s SVP for federal regulations, writes: “To the extent ‘net neutrality’ is animated by a concern about ostensible Internet ‘gatekeepers,’ that concern must necessarily apply to application, service, and content providers.”
Already, the FCC is investigating the reason behind why the Google Voice application was rejected from the iPhone App Store, which already seems to be outside of the FCC’s typical jurisdiction. But still the three parties cooperated, and while AT&T didn’t play a role, according to all accounts, the company clearly sees the application as a threat. Given that the FCC has already intervened on a matter that appears to be more about applications than it does about telecom or broadband — AT&T may just get its way.
In making its argument to the FCC for why Google should be regulated, it cited media reports that Google blocked calls to phone numbers in some rural areas in order to cut down on expenses. Phone companies are not allowed to do that. AT&T argues that by being able to do so, Google gains a significant advantage over its competitors. Google’s response to that is that it says that Google Voice is not a traditional phone service and therefore does not need to be regulated.
UPDATE: Google responded to AT&T’s letter to the FCC on its web site, saying that in some circumstances is does block calls, but argued that Google Voice is not like other traditional phone services for three reasons (of which some are likely to change at some point, but for now they are true). The first reason is because it’s a free,; Google says it doesn’t want to replace traditional phone service — and in fact, you need a land or wireless line in order to use it; and finally because Google Voice is currently invitation-only, serving a limited number of users. Google argues: “AT&T is trying to make this about Google’s support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn’t fly. The FCC’s open Internet principles apply only to the behavior of broadband carriers — not the creators of Web-based software applications. Even though the FCC does not have jurisdiction over how software applications function, AT&T apparently wants to use the regulatory process to undermine Web-based competition and innovation.”