Last Updated Sep 26, 2009 2:21 AM EDT
one of the most noisome trumpeters of so-called "net neutrality" regulationAccording to AT&T's screed, Google is in violation of net neutrality rules because its Google Voice application blocks certain services it doesn't like. One of the principles of net neutrality is that carriers and owners of networks shouldn't discriminate against other services. Here's the thing, though: Google isn't a carrier or a network, and Google Voice is itself nothing but an application.
The idea of this spurious claim is not so much to make a convincing argument to the FCC, but to muddy the waters of public opinion by claiming that
- Google violates the same net neutrality provisions by which it wants other to abide; and
- that rather than worrying about 'so-called' net neutrality (which, in case you hadn't guessed, AT&T opposes), the FCC should occupy itself with the more troublesome task of intercarrier compensation, a relatively old system by which carriers compensate one another for carrying the other's traffic.
Indeed, Hansell is duped into giving voice (if you'll pardon the pun) to AT&T's specious argument, writing
Whether AT&T is right depends on all sorts of technical interpretations of the commission's policiesThere is, in fact, no "whether AT&T is right." Again, Google Voice is an application, and Google doesn't own a network. But Hansell falls into two traps here: the notion that objectivity requires him to present each side as having a point (which is only the case if both sides actually have one), and the idea that this is all too complicated for us mere mortals (himself included) to understand. So where this issue of Google's technology meets abstruse regulatory syntax, Hansell throws up his hands. He writes:
After a week trying to understand those rules, I ran away screaming.I guess we're supposed to accept that if it's too complicated for Hansell, it's beyond understanding by any mere mortals. That is not at all the case, in fact, as you can see from reading how the FCC itself summarizes the situation (and its planned reform):
Interstate access charge rules [were changed following] the 1984 breakup of the former AT&T monopoly [and again] following passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Dramatic changes in the marketplace since that time, however, have placed increasing strains on the existing intercarrier compensation system. For example, most wireless services were not available in the 1980s. More recently, the introduction of bundled service offerings and new services, such as voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) technology, have blurred traditional industry and regulatory distinctions, and posed questions that were not contemplated when the intercarrier compensation rules were initially created. [So,] the Commission has undertaken comprehensive reform of intercarrier compensation.Boy, when you put it like that, it sure does sound complicated. Um-- not. It's a little disheartening to see AT&T succeed so easily at spreading what's commonly known as FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).