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Despite what a handful of lawmakers may say, the dispute between Google (GOOG) and AT&T (T) over the search giant's Google Voice application is not so much about fairness or rural access as it is about steamy phone sex and piles of money.These lawmakers, including Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican and John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican -- who have received a combined 0,000 from AT&T and Verizon over their careers, according to -- have written to the FCC complaining that Google's refusal to connect expensive rural calls is "ill conceived and unfair to our rural constituents." The FCC is set to open an investigation to determine if that's true, according to Dow Jones, and will formally notify Google of the inquest later Friday.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?Technically, the dispute is over FCC regulations governing how long-distance and local phone companies pay each other for traffic that passes from national to local networks.Since Congress deregulated the telecommunications industry in 1996, much of this traffic comprises extremely lucrative sex chat lines, which the national carriers wind up paying for.
S., which Google Voice will compete against, has argued that Google Voice should also have to connect expensive rural calls.
This is something AT&T has tried to avoid, but was required to do by the FCC in 2007.
In response, the search giant has said, "Unlike traditional carriers, Google Voice is a free, Web-based software application, and so not subject to common carrier laws." But those 20 lawmakers have challenged that notion.
"We are formally requesting an investigation by the FCC into the nature and function of Google Inc.'s voice service," the lawmakers wrote in their Oct. "A company should not be able to evade compliance with important principles of access and competition set forth by the FCC by simply self-declaring it is not subject to them without further investigation." Set aside for the moment the fact that most of these lawmakers have received over their careers hundreds of thousands of dollars from AT&T and Verizon (VZ) in campaign and PAC donations.
Set aside the fact that the local exchanges, many of which are in their districts, benefit most from this gaming of the intercarrier payment system.
And set aside the fact that these lawmakers' constituents are among the biggest beneficiaries of a system that provides them with the same phone service that more densely populated areas are accustomed to.