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Google Fires Back Over AT&T’s Call Blocking Claims

While it remains unclear whether Google Voice should be treated the same way as other telecom companies, the search giant isn’t taking any chances with the rather unpleasant probing it’s receiving from the Federal Communications Commission.

Thanks in part to the finger-pointing of AT&T, Google has to answer the accusations that it does not connect calls to certain rural areas. AT&T believes this is unfair–Google should be made to connect calls to any location, regardless of how expensive it is to the company–but Google is firing back, claiming that it’s only blocking calls to obvious "traffic pumping" numbers.

Now, Google has gone one step further. In a letter to the FCC, it claims it has isolated less than 100 numbers that are responsible for the practice, and is now only blocking those specific numbers. If you’re short on time, here’s the pertinent text from Google’s letter:

In June 2009, Google Voice began noticing extremely high cost calls to a concentrated number of destinations. Our internal investigation revealed that the top 10 prefixes to U.S. destinations (NPA-NXX) accounted for l.l percent of our monthly U.S. traffic by volume – an unusually large number, and some 161 times the expected amount by prefix. In tum, this traffic accounted for 26.2 percent of our monthly U.S. cost – again, an unexpectedly large number. In addition to these grossly anomalous call patterns (which include the frequency and duration of calls to rural areas), we also were aware through various industry sources of certain in-bound traffic stimulation practices, and the identities and locations of some of the carriers in question. Many of these businesses are located in rural areas with local carriers that charge unusually high rates for terminating traffic. Our own underlying carriers would assess Google Voice up to 39 cents per minute for some of this interstate traffic. As a result, based on an application of these data filters to the total universe of our outbound traffic, in August 2009 Google Voice began the practice of restricting calls to certain high-cost destinations. Currently, fewer than 100 U.S. telephone numbers are restricted based on an application of these filters.

For a couple of technology giants, they sure are good at tennis. The ball is now back in AT&T’s court!

  • http://www.terryhoward.net/ Terry Howard

    Interesting. On the one side of the fence is traditional telcoms who have a long sordid history of allowing things like “cramming” (unapproved 3rd party charges appearing in your actual telephone bill), telephone based scams and other things to plague their own customers, usually defended by a “we have no knowledge or control of this” statement. On the other here we have a tech and info company like Google using their data and resources to identify and research so they can be more cost effective and efficient with money and resources. In just the same way that GMail works on blocking and sniffing out phishing, scams and spam, could Google Voice work to block people abusing telephony for nefarious purposes?

    You can currently file an FCC complaint against someone and if they get enough complaints they might try to look into the matter and eventually shut down their number, by which time they just use a new one. What if your phone service provided their own filtering to protect you as a value added service, instead of passively being an enabler? I think the telcoms have a future of having to actually treat their customers right ahead of them. I welcome it.
    .-= Terry Howard´s last blog ..Children’s Decor: Art Gifts for Kids =-.