Google Responds to AT&T's Claims of Call Blocking

Includes: GOOG, T
by: Andy Beal

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 (NYSE:T), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) 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!