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But why all the interest in Google Voice from AT&T, Congress and now the FCC?After all, Google Voice is available by invite only, and only a relative handful of people are using it. And why is AT&T expending so much energy to create roadblocks to its tiny new rival?After Congress and President Bill Clinton deregulated the phone industry with Telecommunications Act of 1996, rural areas came to receive their service primarily from two types of local carriers: an ILEC, for "incumbent local exchange carrier," the local phone companies that predated the Ma Bell breakup; or a CLEC, for "competitive local phone exchange," companies that emerged after the industry was deregulated.What these newlocal phone exchanges quickly discovered is that they could make a gobs of money by partnering with phone sex and adult chat companies to route the numbers through rural exchanges -- a practice known as "traffic pumping." The local exchanges then turn around and charge AT&Tmany of which are actually forwarded to sex call centers in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
S., which Google Voice will compete against, has argued that Google Voice should also have to connect expensive rural calls.
An AT&T spokesperson told Reuters that policymakers would determine if Google is enjoying a "double-standard." Some of the local exchanges have accused AT&T of simply not paying its bills.
In fact, just last week, two local South Dakota carriers, Northern Valley Communications and Sancom, sent a letter to the FCC accusing AT&T of hypocrisy by complaining about Google's ability to block such calls.
In the letter to the FCC, an attorney for the rural carriers, Ross Buntrock, wrote to complain that AT&T is refusing to pay the required fees to rural carriersdespite being required by law to do so.
"AT&T is engaging in very similar conduct to 'reduce its access expenses' by simply refusing to pay its bills," Buntrock wrote.