The continuing saga over Google Voice, ATT, and Apple is now nearly fully being fought in a proxy battle over whether Google Voice has to reach all telephone lines, or as Google contends, some can be blocked from receiving calls.
We have already walked down this road. We stand behind our previous contention that the regulations that force phone companies to allow all calls do not in fact extend to Google. ATT is of course contending otherwise, and in a new letter to the FCC today they laid out their case. Their goal, it would seem is to discredit Google and Google Voice just enough to have the issue of Google Voice dropped in regards to it coming to the iPhone and ATT.
When the going gets tough, the mud slinging never stops. ATT turned on the rhetorical fire hose in the letter, trying to claim that blocking telephone calls is akin to blocking certain websites. What ATT did not realize, is that Google already does the latter. That aside, listen to ATT make their case:
But Google’s call blocking begs an even more important question that the Commission must consider as it evaluates whether to adopt rules regarding Internet openness. If the Commission is going to be a “smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet,” then shouldn’t its “beat” necessarily cover the entire Internet neighborhood, including Google? Indeed, if the Commission cannot stop Google from blocking disfavored telephone calls as Google contends, then how could the Commission ever stop Google from also blocking disfavored websites from appearing in the results of its search engine; or prohibit Google from blocking access to applications that compete with its own email, text messaging, cloud computing and other services; or otherwise prevent Google from abusing the gatekeeper control it wields over the Internet?
Bing’s gripes aside on some of the complaints being made, ATT is getting desperate. I have to feel mildly vindicated in my previous prediction on the matter:
This will evolve into a purely political issue. The actual discussion over whether Google Voice has to make all calls, or can restrict them is nearly a non-starter. Google can make that change in a day, and the supposed cost burden would be born from product revenues. However, this is an important change in the winds in regards to the Apple v. Google legal strife. Google now appears as a stingy giant, which is hard sell when they are trying to paint Apple as just that.
ATT is following the path that we all expected. All that remains is whether the FCC will conflate the two dissimilar and distinct issues at hand: Google making calls to all phones, and the exclusion of Google Voice from the iPhone. Of course, the endless competence of the US government might shine through, but given its track record it seems more likely that ATT has found a very effective wedge to stick in the closing door of their legal position against Google Voice inclusion.
You can read the whole letter here, but put on your hyperbole boots before you ford this river.