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AT&T savages Google Voice

Some networks are more neutral than others

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AT&T has escalated its attacks against Google and Google Voice, accusing the chocolate factory of double standards and demanding it be regulated like any other telco.

In a fifteen-page letter (PDF hosted at the Washington Post) Robert Quinn (AT&T VP) lays into the chocolate factory for holding an unregulated monopoly on web searching, stacking web searches in its favour and adopting a hugely hypocritical stance on the neutrality of communication networks.

The core complaint relates to the way in which Google Voice users are blocked from dialling specific numbers. Google claims this is to avoid excessive charges, but AT&T reckons that's decidedly un-neutral, not to mention that the operator discovered Google is blocking an eye doctor, a church, an ambulance service and a convent, amongst others.

Google reckons it's not subject to telecommunications regulations, which require operators to connect calls to any valid number, as Google Voice is just a software application not operating as a network operator. Not only is that obviously bollocks, as AT&T points out, but it's also in stark contrast to Google's position on net neutrality, which says operators should be required to connect to any valid address with equal facility.

The FCC's threatened stance on net neutrality should be applied to Google even if it's not a telecommunications company, argues AT&T. It points out that with 71 per cent of the search market, Google is more of a "gatekeeper" of internet content than any ISP, and so should be legally required to treat all internet content equally.

AT&T backs up its claims that the search giant is not being even-handed with an example where articles supporting net neutrality featured predominantly in search results. Google explained at the time that this was the result of "public service-type advertisements", but AT&T reckons that is hardly fair:

"Google never explained what it means when it claims to have 'participated in its own auction'; all we know is that it unilaterally moved its favored political messages to the head of the queue, apparently at no cost to itself."

No matter how vitriolic, or sustained, the attacks against Google, it's unlikely anyone is going to have much sympathy for AT&T: the former is still cool while the latter is just that monolithic company which can't run an iPhone network. ®

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