The Federal Communications Commission is officially looking at complaints that Google Voice blocks calls to rural communities, the Washington Post reports. Google Voice assigns you a telephone number and then directs calls to that number to home phones, cell phones or voice mail. It doesn’t replace a phone, but it does manage calls. (See the video for a quick explanation.)
Google, however, blocks calls to conference call services, chat-line numbers or local exchanges it claims have high access fees. Several rural telecom companies say Google is targeting rural America and 20 lawmakers sent a letter to the FCC asking for an inquiry into whether the company was red-lining rural places. AT&T is upset too, claiming Google is avoiding “common carrier” regulations that it and other telecoms must adhere to. Some rural carriers also want the FCC to investigate other services, such as MagicJack and Speakeasy, to see if they are avoiding requirements traditional phone companies must abide by.
Google’s response is that the company does restrict calls to numbers controlled by companies that “charge exorbitant termination rates for calls” and “partner with adult sex chat lines and ‘free’ conference calling centers to drive high volumes of traffic.”