AT&T Sends Letter To FCC About Google Violating Internet Access Principles

AT&T sent a letter to the FCC Friday suggesting that reports the Google Voice application was blocking some calls meant the company was violating the spirit of the FCC's Internet Access principles, which the FCC plans to toughen and expand.

"While Google argues for others to be bound by net neutrality rules, it argues against itself being bound by common carriage," said AT&T. "Ironically, Google is also flouting the so-called “fifth principle of non-discrimination” for which Google has so fervently advocated. According to Google, non-discrimination ensures that a provider “cannot block fair access” to another provider. But that is exactly what Google is doing when it blocks calls that Google Voice customers make to telephone numbers associated with certain local exchange carriers."

Free Press, which like Google, pushed for stronger network neutrality enforcement, called it a distraction. "In the letter, AT&T misguidedly claims that Google Voice is violating the FCC's Internet Policy Statement, though this statement applies only to Internet access services -- not applications or Web services," said the group. "AT&T's letter to the Federal Communications Commission is a red herring," said Research Director Derek Turner. "It appears to be a political stunt to distract attention from the important work the FCC has begun on Network Neutrality."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced this week the FCC would add a fifth and sixth Inernet openness principle on nondiscrimination in Internet access and customer notification of reasonable network management.

"AT&T is trying to make this about Google's support for an open Internet, but the comparison just doesn't fly," said Richard Whitt, Google Telecom & Media Counsel in a blog posting.

"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."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.