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Google paints picture of abusive scammers sabotaging its service with pricey connections

Google Voice is an intriguing service from the internet giant that allows free text messaging, free domestic calling (including to Canada), and reduced international calling rates.  The service hasn't been embraced by all handset makers, however.  Apple quickly rejected a Google Voice app for the iPhone, prompting a FCC inquiry.

AT&T has come forth and accused Google of everything from being a monopoly to doctoring the media.  The most pertinent accusations to the Google Voice conflict are AT&T's claims that Google is breaking the law by blocking numbers to its service.

Google already said that it isn't breaking the law as the service is free and thus is not subject to the same restrictions as traditional telecoms.  Now it's Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, Richard Whitt, has posted a blog sharing Google's perspective in greater detail.

The post describes, "Earlier this year, we noticed an extremely high number of calls were being made to an extremely small number of destinations. In fact, the top 10 telephone prefixes -- the area code plus the first three digits of a seven digit number, e.g., 555-555-XXXX -- generated more than 160 times the expected traffic volumes, and accounted for a whopping 26 percent of our monthly connection costs."

Google claims that these numbers were mostly adult chat and "free" conference call lines, with high associated costs.  In response to the criticism, Google say it has been trying to block calls on a "more granular level".  It says it now only blocks about 100 numbers, which it is confident are part of traffic-pumping schemes.

Instead of facing criticism, Google feels it deserves praise for highlighting a flawed system.  It says that the higher costs of calls on traditional phone plans, and the existence of traffic pumping schemes point to a broken system.  Writes Mr. Whitt, "We still believe the Commission needs to repair our nation's broken carrier compensation system."



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By grath on 10/29/2009 9:51:29 PM , Rating: 3
It really pains me to play devils advocate against Google (and even moreso to support AT&Ts side), but these networks dont just materialize out of thin air.

Tt takes millions of man-hours and billions of dollars to deploy and maintain the networks we take for granted, and we take every opportunity to loudly criticize their coverage, reliability, and performance. We are anrgy that the current generation sucks, and are are forever impatient for the next generation, that we will immediately start complaining about when it deploys.

And now we intend to circumvent the revenue generator that funds the network infrastructure. On a massive scale. Its harder to blame human nature for wanting to save a buck and "get one over on The Man" than it is to blame the tool that enables it. Google Voice by its very nature makes itself a legitimate target.

A few decades ago another tool called a Blue Box was produced to make free calls over a phone network. I seem to recall a story about Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Captain Crunch themselves getting caught by police while using a Blue Box on a pay phone. Using such a tool is considered stealing phone service, how can Google Voice really be considered to be any different?

Just because we have formed this mental disconnect between voice and data rates doesnt make them not both data. The carriers DO US A FAVOR by making that distinction and offering low priced unlimited data plans on the assumption that we will not abuse it like this. The alternative is to call a spade a spade and just include voice and text/MMS as data. Our plans will basically be in quantities of megabytes instead of minutes, or just straight unlimited everything.

Is that really what we want to see happen? This is an undeniable threat to the carriers, and they have no recourse but to go to the FCC. That is what the FCC is for. Despite the fact that Google Voice is free, it goes through a service that is not free, and it is an enabler.

Google Im sure is under no delusions about what theyre doing. I think that no matter how this plays out, it has served to further establish Google as a player and strengthened their foothold in the industry. Compromises might have to be made on both sides, but Google Voice will survive as a product even if it ultimately is not entirely free.




By eldakka on 10/30/2009 1:00:29 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
A few decades ago another tool called a Blue Box was produced to make free calls over a phone network. I seem to recall a story about Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Captain Crunch themselves getting caught by police while using a Blue Box on a pay phone. Using such a tool is considered stealing phone service, how can Google Voice really be considered to be any different?


Because the blue box enabled you to make telephone calls without paying for them.

Google Voice does not do the same thing.

When you use google voice, you are not really making a telephone call. You are using your data connection to the internet to send data. You have to pay for that connection, that data. You are not making a telephone call for free, as you are not making a telephone call. It is no different than making a recording of a speech in digital format, then copying that file (FTP, torrent, attaching to an email, etc) and sending it to someone else for them to play back.

quote:
The alternative is to call a spade a spade and just include voice and text/MMS as data. Our plans will basically be in quantities of megabytes instead of minutes, or just straight unlimited everything.


As they should be.


By cdwilliams1 on 10/30/2009 11:42:39 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
When you use google voice, you are not really making a telephone call. You are using your data connection to the internet to send data. You have to pay for that connection, that data. You are not making a telephone call for free, as you are not making a telephone call. It is no different than making a recording of a speech in digital format, then copying that file (FTP, torrent, attaching to an email, etc) and sending it to someone else for them to play back.


Well, that's the thing though. What you're describing *is* a telephone call - or - it would be if Google voice didn't exist. The telecoms profit heavily off long distance phone calls and business lines in particular (but not much at all on residential lines). What Google voice is doing is killing the cash cow.

This cash cow heavily subsidizies your internet connection. If the Google were to kill the cash cow of long distance and business telephone lines the telecoms will certainly raise rates on your internet pipe or introduce throttling, or usage caps, or metered service to make up the difference.

I hate to play devil's advocate as I despise most telecoms but I can see why they have a beef. Google is killing off one of their most profitable areas, AND they are using the carriers own infrastructure to make it happen.


By jimbojimbo on 10/30/2009 1:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When you use google voice, you are not really making a telephone call. You are using your data connection to the internet to send data
WRONG!! Just wait until you get your Google Voice invitation and try it out for a while before you post more about how you think it works.


By droplets on 10/30/2009 5:02:39 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The carriers DO US A FAVOR by making that distinction and offering low priced unlimited data plans on the assumption that we will not abuse it like this.


I can afford $73.99 a month, but I wouldn't call that cheap, even for 'unlimited' data. They advertise plans as "unlimited data", or "unlimited everything", etc. So can you explain how they are doing us a favor? And even so, they have all the fine print they need in that contract I signed to terminate my service if I use more data than they can afford.

RE: Infrastructure: Outside my house there's a cable line and a voice line, but there's no reason I need both. There are lots of reasons, historically, that have led to this inefficiency, but the one I'm highlighting is larger corporations' desire and tendency to be the data services provider and the content distributor. This is what has led us to shabby $2.99 ringtones, "SprintTV" etc.

It appears the open standards of internet-based protocols are creeping slowly, though.

Most people that read this article aren't going to be upset with Google's choice, because they seem to recognize profiteering habits, and really appear to be breaking them through innovation and generous prices (ie free).


"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain














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