Free Conferencing CEO Asks FCC to Keep on Google Voice

[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.

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