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AT&T Calls Google a Hypocrite On Net Neutrality 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-wants-to-take-a-shot-at-the-champ dept.
NotBornYesterday writes "AT&T is accusing Google of being a hypocrite when it comes to Net neutrality because it blocks certain phone calls on its Google Voice service. 'By openly flaunting the call-blocking prohibition that applies to its competitors, Google is acting in a manner inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the FCC's fourth principle contained in its Internet Policy Statement,' Robert Quinn, AT&T's senior vice president focusing on federal regulation, said in a statement. Google blocks certain calls to avoid high costs due to a practice known as traffic pumping. Rural carriers can charge connection fees that are about 100 times higher than the rates that large local phone companies can charge. In traffic pumping, they share this revenue with adult chat services, conference-calling centers, party lines, and others that are able to attract lots of incoming phone calls to their networks. Google responded by saying that the rules AT&T refers to don't apply to Google Voice for several reasons. Google Voice is a software application that offers a service on top of the existing telco infrastructure, it is a free service, and it is not intended to be a replacement for traditional telephone service. In fact, the service requires that users have a landline phone or a wireless phone."
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AT&T Calls Google a Hypocrite On Net Neutrality

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  • ...get shot by those who don't.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:28PM (#29548895) Homepage
      No, I think it's more akin to "Oh yeah? Your mother wears army boots!"

      It's not even the 'battleground of business'. It's a 5th grade playground.
      • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:43PM (#29548985) Journal
        No, I think it's more akin to "Oh yeah? Your mother wears army boots!"

        HAHAHAHAA!

        Yeah - you've got a point. From my end, I used to work at ATT back in the evil early 80s, and it was one of the most corrupt and arrogant places I was ever involved with. And they were always the people bringing a knife to a gun fight - fighting this year's war with last year's technology and last decade's strategy. Clusterfuck central. There are ways to deal with all of this, but ATT lacks the creativity, and Google is too opportunistic to work any of it out. Sigh. Trainwreck on the count of three... 1... 2...

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          So far the telcos have bought enough legislation to the point where they have almost reunited into Ma Bell. This isn't last decade's strategy; litigating your way to corporate success is as old as the corporation (lawyers have been around far longer.)

          Pretty sure AT&T has been all up in its Machiavelli for long enough to know what it's doing. This is a potentially transformative time, though; it will be interesting to see what the consumer demands. It is very often not precisely what the PowersThatBe wan

      • by NickFortune (613926) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:58PM (#29549049) Homepage Journal

        I quite agree.

        Just for a second, suppose AT&T have got a point. That still wouldn't turn Net Neutrality a bad idea.

        This is just a corporate level ad-hominem attack: Google are hypocrites, therefore they are Wrong, and their ideas are all Bad.

        I reckon AT&T must be getting desperate if they're scraping this far down into the bottom of the barrel.

        • by Alaren (682568) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:36PM (#29549221)

          You don't even have to suppose that AT&T has a good point. They don't.

          "Network Neutrality" is another way of saying, "preserve peering [wikipedia.org]." (This was pointed out by the AC post here [slashdot.org].

          As I point out here [slashdot.org], AT&T hates traffic pumping [usatoday.com], too.

          But AT&T is in a bind. As a common carrier, under FCC rules they can't go blocking these numbers unless you actually request it (for which they will probably charge you a fee). Because phone networks lack peering, dialing into certain rural networks can cost more. So AT&T has to either charge you extra for the call (which means they can't offer "flat rate" plans), or eat the extra cost. Because the phone network is not neutral, traffic pumping presents an opportunity for unscrupulous profiteering, namely, charging at both ends of the transaction (which is what AT&T wants to be able to do with the internet by eliminating network neutrality).

          So Google is not behaving hypocritically for one simple reason: Google seeks to participate in network activity where peering is intact. Paying the extra fees rather than blocking these traffic pumping calls would violate the principle of network neutrality by financially supporting a clear violation of the peering approach.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:26PM (#29549791)

            The lack of neutrality on the phone network exists because AT&T (along with the other Regional Bell Operating Companies, aka "ex-AT&T's" aka "Incumbent Local Exchange Comapnies") lobbied for it and they did so out of a belief that *they* owned the most valuable phone network resource (lots of subscribers) and could use the lack of peering to block competitors from entering the market (even though that was THE reason the courts caused the RBOCs to be created) by charging the competitors (CLECs) huge fees to access AT&T's customers which the CLECs would, in turn, have to pass on to their customers. Who'd buy phone service from Vonage if they had to charge you 15 times as much as AT&T or Verizon just so that Vonage customers could sometimes dial AT&T or Verizon customers?

            Now the "incumbent" ISPs are making the same mistake in believing that *they* control the most valuable Internet resource (again, lots of subscribers) and want the right to charge connection fees. So what if somebody repeats what happened in the phone network world and starts up a small (restricted customer set) top-tier ISP and promises to give Google or Youtube absolutely free Internet service with the expectation that the ISP will recoup that cost (and much more) by charging the "incumbent" ISPs huge fees to connect people with Google's servers? Cha-Ching!

            You'd think these people would learn from their mistakes...

          • You don't even have to suppose that AT&T has a good point. They don't.

            Doesn't matter whether they do or they don't. Their argument is bogus either way. Why bother evaluating terms beyond those necessary?

  • I am German, those extra expensive "service" numbers are usually 0900 numbers, is that the same system in the USA ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tacvek (948259)

      The services question are 1-900-xxx-xxxx numbers here, and charge outrageous fees. The problem is that in some rural areas, apparently, the small teclos charge the long distance carriers (the phone network backbone) significantly more to connect each call then the connection would normally be worth. The per connection fee is charged to the long distance carrier regardless of what type of number is dialed.

      These small telcos then agree to share revenue from connection costs with those 900 number services, in

      • by djweis (4792) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:12PM (#29549105) Homepage

        This doesn't have anything to do with 900 numbers, it has to do with toll calls to rural telephone carriers. They are allowed to set arbitrary rates that AT&T and other LD carriers must/should pay. To entice calls they offer free conference call systems or other services that cause people in other areas to call these toll numbers.

        • ....and the 900 numbers locate themselves in rural areas, and share in the extra (local) telco revenue from those charges. The charges apply no matter what type of number it is.
      • by sjames (1099) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:04PM (#29549711) Homepage

        All of this is based on a crazy fee structure created by the big telecoms in an effort to drive out smaller competition. There has been a multi-decade war of defining fee structures that look fairish but are anything but that in practice followed by some provider finding a loophole and raking in a fortune. That, in turn, causes the large providers to demand a re-structuring all while pretending the last one wasn't their idea. Lather, rinse, repeat endlessly.

        All of this is exactly the sort of double dipping they want to implement for the internet and it's 100% anti-neutrality.

        Fundamentally, cross charging other carriers is bogus since each already got paid a fair fee by their own customer to provide the service. That is, I have a phone and I pay a monthly fee for it. That fee is in part for the service of accepting incoming calls for me and connecting them. I have already paid the call 'termination fee'. If my provider refuses to connect a call for me to my paid for phone line (presumably if another carrier originating the call refuses to pay termination fees), they are ripping ME off by not providing what I paid for.

        So, actually, Google is pressing for proper neutrality in the VoIP world by refusing to participate in an anti-neutrality scheme that was in-part created by AT&T.

  • And anyone can call AT&T a hypocrite not knowing when money involved companies lose comprehension of ethics and become evil somehow.
  • Beta (Score:2, Funny)

    by Starlon (1492461)
    Google will just claim that it's still in beta.
  • hmph (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:36PM (#29548943)

    I see no problem.

    Google is just protecting itself from unscrupulous end-line telcos.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by crispytwo (1144275)

      exactly, and by doing these blocks, it encourages the unscrupulous end-line telcos to go out of business, or change their ways, that benefit both Google and AT&T and others.

      It sounds like AT&T are just idiots here...

  • Big difference (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:41PM (#29548979) Homepage

    One major difference between what Google's doing and what AT&;T would like to do: AT&T wants to block/limit something the user wants to do and that they are doing deliberately, when the blocking benefits AT&T and negatively affects the user. Google is blocking something the user doesn't know (before they get the bill, at least) would happen and didn't ask for, and the blocking benefits the user (by keeping them from being unwittingly charged a large sum of money) and not Google. The whole reason those rural numbers are used, after all, is specifically because they can charge high rates without it being apparent from the number that the charges are going to be any higher than normal. They're used to deceive callers into thinking the call's a regular one and not one that'll be charged at a premium rate. Blocking that deception is, IMO, just ever so slightly different from keeping a user from using a service they want to use.

    • You misunderstand (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rix (54095) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:53PM (#29549307)

      The user doesn't get charged at all, just the phone company. The rural phone companies are exploiting a sideways subsidy meant to allow them to charge more for connections to rural homes by redirecting calls to large call centres through their networks. It's a shell game.

    • Re:Big difference (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuperQ (431) * on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:55PM (#29549321) Homepage

      Unfortunately, you're a bit incorrect about this. If you look around at these other posts, the issue is that even tho you dial any XXX-XXX-XXXX number in the US like it's local, AT&T and Google still both pay long-distance fees in the case of these rural lines. AT&T isn't allowed by federal rules to block these gouging calls, but since Google Voice is an overlay network basically they can. AT&T is just mad because they can't block the calls too.

      As was said by someone else on this post, if net neutrality existed on phone networks, this wouldn't be an issue.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        As was said by someone else on this post, if net neutrality existed on phone networks, this wouldn't be an issue.

        True, but if we want net neutrality on phones then probably a good first step would be getting rid of all the crazy pricing schemes that exist. Frankly, these kinds of scams aren't fair to ANYBODY.

        Look, I'm fine with a system that lets some farmer have a phone without having to pay $500 per month, but there has to be a better way. Net Neutrality doesn't mean charging people using pricing games

    • If Google's charging for this service, and thus passing these costs on to the customer, it's a bit like anti-phishing -- there should be a warning, but it shouldn't be blocked entirely. And it should be possible to turn the warning off.

      That's the difference, and that's a possible valid point AT&T might have.

      Except I think Google Voice is a free service, which means Google would essentially be swallowing these fees. What they're doing here is more akin to a backbone ISP refusing to peer with another, and

  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:45PM (#29548995) Journal
    Since when do telcos abide by the spirit of the law?

    Looking first at broadband penetration, they want everyone to have broadband. At 4x the speed of a 56kbps modem. With download caps. And traffic shaping. Who's violating the spirit of the law?

    Moving along to cell phone inter-operability. Although many telcos allow you to use outside phones on their networks, actually unlocking a phone is nearly impossible (with a few exceptions). Granted, they've subsidized your phone purchase. But you subsidize their paycheques.

    Next topic: Phone number portability. It wasn't that long ago that you couldn't actually move your phone number when you left your portable phone company for another. So much for portability.

    Finally... It's AT&T. They outsource (and violate the american dream!) and barely train their call centre employees. It is impossibly difficult to get out of a contract, even when they've violated the terms, and they charge for checking your voice mail and receiving text messages. Although they're legally allowed to do that, it violates the spirit of only paying for time that you use!

    ... also, they're owned by satan, but that's beside the point.
    • by Kongming (448396)

      I'm not really your target audience here, but if you are trying to persuade the crowd that would be influenced by appeals to the "american dream", you might want to modify your spelling of "centre". They're pretty big on the "English-only" thing, and they have an odd definition of "English".

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_spelling_differences [wikipedia.org]

        Spend a little time looking through the list, and you'll see the whole thing is such a big clusterfuck that neither variant can claim to be more "true" English than the other can.

    • by alen (225700)

      you can complain about telco's but Google's way of doing things for the last few years has been to take other companies' data and make money off it while giving nothing back.

      Google bid on the 700MHz auction a few years ago and either lost or purposefully underbid to saddle VZW other ATT wtih debt while planning to ride on their network. if Google wants to be a telecom they should have won the auction or did like Boost Mobile and MetroPCS and start up a cell phone service by buying other frequencies.

      Even Von

      • by Otterley (29945)

        What if Google had won the auction?

      • Google bid to make the network more open and made the frequency more useful for EVERYONE... That was a very good thing. Weird you'd pick that to complain about, it was pretty much an act of charity to the whole of the US.
      • by TeraCo (410407)

        Google bid on the 700MHz auction a few years ago and either lost or purposefully underbid

        I'm not sure if you understand how an auction works but there's no such thing as 'underbidding'. You bid what you want to pay, and if someone else wants to pay more they bid more. Your lack of auction savvy makes me wonder why you aren't condemning the other parties at the auction for purposefully inflating the price instead!

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ugh, number portability. What a huge goddamn mess.
      For the unwashed masses:

      Your NPA-NXX is owned by the Local exchange carrier, When number portability came out, they basically said, "oh, well now we need twice as many numbers" One number is the REAL NPA-NXX (which is no longer your true phone number, and the other is the dialable number. So your phone number may be 123-555-1234, but the carrier's number may really be 321-555-8765. In a sense, each "phone number" is now really two. the one you dial, and the

    • I, sir, am very offended by the blatant lie in your post.

      -Satan
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:48PM (#29549011) Homepage

    Hmm, I just realized. IIRC AT&T (like most phone companies) offers a premium-rate-call blocking service themselves. One that you have to pay for, if they're like the others I'm familiar with. Google's blocking makes it unnecessary to pay for AT&T's blocking. I suspect that's why AT&T's upset.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is yet another instance where the conflation of infrastructure with service muddies the picture.

    Netneutrality should really be about neutrality in the network (ie the infrastructure/series of tubes) service providers USE the series of tubs and ought to be able to come up with whatever usage scheme they want as long as people will buy it.

    Instead, in the US, at least, the service provider owns the infrastructure as well and we end up in obtuse arguments like this one complaining that a network USER is in

    • by dangitman (862676)

      service providers USE the series of tubs

      Does that mean the internet is actually a series of tubgirls?

  • Peering (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If phone companies were to use peering, like ISPs do, then this would be a neutrality issue. Since there's no peering, and this is a simple matter of avoiding exorbitant costs, there's no neutrality issue.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099)

      Actually, it is. They don't do peering because that would keep them from killing small players with exorbitant termination fees. They're trying to bring the same corrupt model to the internet.

  • It's "flouting," not "flaunting."

  • AT&T is Jealous (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alaren (682568) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:00PM (#29549059)

    A quick Google-brand text-based web search of "traffic pumping" yielded this gem [usatoday.com] from USA Today. Apparently AT&T is jealous, because it hates traffic pumping as much as Google, but can't do anything about it. I think this example actually shows the opposite of what AT&T says it shows...

  • Google isn't an ISP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TypoNAM (695420) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:06PM (#29549079)

    What the hell is AT&T smoking? Net Neutrality has nothing to do with phone service at the phone network level. Net Neutrality is all about internet network packet delivery and it is basically an Internet Service Provider issue, not about phone service. Last time I checked Google isn't an ISP (to third parties) while AT&T is for a large chunk of this country and as a major packet routing network (aka backbone provider) between various ISPs. AT&T trying its best to spread FUD as usual as it did in order to get laws passed to ban Municipal ISPs.

    • by Kierthos (225954)

      Because AT&T wouldn't be trying to confuse the issue, would they?

      Here's a little head's up. Six Republican Senators (at least) are co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the FCC from implementing it's newly announced Net Neutrality policy. One of those Senators is Jim DeMint, out of South Carolina.

      How much has AT&T put into DeMint's 2010 re-election campaign so far? Why... over $63,000 (in individual donations and PAC contributions). AT&T is, in fact, the second-highest donater of funds to DeM

    • The bottom line is that there is little technical difference left between phone and internet systems now. As time goes on the difference gets smaller and smaller. Eventually it won't exist at all. What that means is that neutrality applies, or at the very least that it should apply. That is, if it existed in the first place, but it doesn't yet. AT&T runs the vast majority of your phone traffic through it's internet backbones as IP traffic. Ultimately net neutrality will be required to level the te
  • by Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:19PM (#29549131)
    So, in the honest-to-goodness telephony market, there are a bunch of dodgy rural providers who rip you off when you call a number in their fiefdom. As is poorly explained in the summary and article, they're trying to maximise the number of calls to their numbers - by selling them to sex line and chatroom operators and sharing the connection revenue.

    AT&T and a load of other telcos have complained about this as they are hoisted by their own petard (free calls to landlines), and the net neutrality principle. The FCC are being painfully slow in sorting this out and giving the rural providers a good bitchslap.

    I don't blame Google for not routing to these numbers, there are clearly defined prefixes for premium rate services and this is just a dodge to get round that. Eventually the loophole will be closed.
  • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:25PM (#29549175) Homepage Journal
    Funny, I thought the whole "net neutrality" issue was due to connectivity providers abusing the high cost of entry and exclusive agreements with local government to maintain an oligopoly so they can shaft people. Google just runs on top of existing infrastructure.
  • No "Mr. Pot meet Mr. Kettle" comments?!?

    I'm disappointed guys!

  • Now that (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:54PM (#29549311)
    is calling the kettle black! Google is pro net-neutrality because they do not want their services blocked or throttled by ISPs. AT&T is so anti net-neutrality that it is not even funny. Seems like AT&T is spewing more crap. This from a network provider that still cannot support MMS. MMS has only been around for the last seven or eight years. Google is technologically light years ahead of AT&T.
  • We should mandate that all phone companies allow free and unrestricted access to their networks from all comers over the internet. Phone service isn't anything special, it's just data. There's absolutely no legitimate reason anyone should pay a dime for it if they want to run it over their internet connection.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Saturday September 26, 2009 @02:04PM (#29549377)

    ...but AT&T has an unblemished record of douchebaggery going back for decades. They'd sell kiddie porn to your granny if they thought they could get away with it.

  • I used to get a daily call from AT&T pushing their Uverse, DSL, etc. Even though I told them no, they would call back the next day. So my only course was to forward my land line to my Google Voice phone number to block them. Soon after that I received a postcard asking if I was having problem with my land line.

  • My land line and cell phone are both on ATT. To keep bills low, I don't have long distance (or anything else) on my land line, and I make sure never to go over my minutes on my cell plan (Giving credit where credit is due, the rollover minutes [which I did not have with verizon] do help to make this possible. So, if I am at home, I use Google voice to make out going calls via my land line. I can call anywhere in the country for free, and I'm not using my cell minutes. I can see why ATT is mad about GV, and all I can say is "Ha Ha!"
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @03:49PM (#29549917) Homepage

    A few days ago, The Iowa Department of Commerce Utilities Board put a stop to traffic pumping in Iowa. [iowa.gov] It seems that a number of small telcos like "The Farmers and Merchants Mutual Telephone Company of Wayland, Iowa" were overcharging long distance carriers for "terminating" large numbers of long distance calls that were actually shipped elsewhere. (Unlike the Internet, there is inter-company billing within the telephone system.) This service was used mostly for conference bridges and dial-a-porn. Sprint, which offers flat-rate long distance service within the US, was losing money on calls to those numbers. So Sprint blocked them and filed a complaint with the Iowa authorities.

    Iowa ruled this week that the telcos were overcharging, had to stop it, and had to give the money back. Sprint also had to stop blocking, which won't be a problem once the rates come down.

    The FCC is working on this problem nationally, but the worst offenders just got shut down.

  • How about instead of worrying about google voice, you find a way for me to talk for three minutes straight on my phone without dropping the call. Oh and the mms update yesterday was great! I only takes my three attempts to send a picture!
  • 'By openly flaunting the call-blocking prohibition that applies to its competitors, Google is acting in a manner inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the FCC's fourth principle contained in its Internet Policy Statement,' Robert Quinn, AT&T's senior vice president focusing on federal regulation,

    The word is "flout", which means [wiktionary.org]

    1. To express contempt for the rules by word or action.
    2. To scorn.
    "They flouted the conventions and were asked to leave."

    Not "flaunt [wiktionary.org]"

    1. (transitive)

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