The Federal Communications Commission sparked intense debate last week when it announced that it planned to expand its Internet neutrality principles and then adopt them as formal rules. Among other things, the proposed rules would prevent broadband providers, whether cable or wireless, from discriminating against content types or applications, as well as require them to be transparent regarding their reasonable network management practices.
Upon hearing the FCC's chairman's announcement regarding the rules, AT&T and other wireless providers were immediately up in arms, concerned that the increased regulation in the wireless market particularly would stymie innovation and inhibit creative competition. Now, AT&T is accusing Google of violating the FCC's principles which, according to Search Engine Watch, may go to a vote as early as Oct. 22 .
CNET News blogger Marguerite Reardon reported Monday that AT&T has written a letter to the FCC complaining that Google is violating the principle of fair competition because it blocks calls made from Google Voice to "certain rural communities." Google's Richard Whitt responded to the charge via a blog post, explaining that it blocks certain calls because local carriers charge Google and other providers heavy fees to connect to their networks. Whitt also notes that the FCC's principles apply to broadband providers, "not the creators of Web-based software applications." In other words, the principles should not apply to Google.
Whitt may have a point, but it does seem duplicitous to argue in that vein, especially since Google has been all about openness and transparency when it's good for Google. Then again, AT&T doesn't have much of a leg to stand on, either, according to PCWorld.com blogger Harry McCracken. "Wasn't AT&T just insisting that net neutrality policy shouldn't apply to wireless service?" he asks.