When AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) fired back at Google Voice, complaining to the FCC that it was blocking calls that AT&T was forbidden to block, the response from the blogosphere was rather incredulous. It wasn't the same thing, it wasn't even related to last mile networks and thus network neutrality is irrelevant, and Google Voice isn't even a real voice service. I tried to make the point that AT&T wasn't really trying to stop Google Voice, it was using Google as a foil to be heard on the topic of intercarrier compensation. In its response, Google surprised me by not taking the the "we're all-IP so obscure telecom regulations shouldn't apply" line, they actually picked up the gauntlet.
First, the company narrowed the field to just 100 or so numbers that they believe are clear cases of traffic pumping, i.e. RLECs partnering with chat lines and other providers to abuse rural prefixes with high access charges to host high volume lines and split the proceeds that flow in involuntarily from other carriers. They didn't bury the issue under technicalities. They didn't back down, rather they isolated and clarified the real problem. Second, they reiterated their previous somewhat impersonal call for intercarrier compensation reform to restore the proper balance.
In other words, they acknowledged that there's something that needs addressing here and they didn't bail on the issue by claiming they aren't part of the telecom world. They are going to make the new FCC a) actually fix the system or b) publicly endorse traffic pumping. Will the FCC choose the option c) punt as they always have? Or will the fact that Google and AT&T actually want the same thing here give Genachowski enough cover to push through intercarrier compensation reform? As I've said a few times now, enforcing network neutrality without fixing intercarrier compensation is like putting up wallpaper over water damage. We need a healthy regulatory framework from the top to the bottom.
So Kudos to Google for not ducking the issue or claiming immunity, now let's use this chance to find a permanent fix for once.
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