FCC again looking into Google Voice complaints

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FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a meeting with Times editors Thursday. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Google Voice is again under fire from federal regulators.

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into complaints by AT&T that the Google Voice phone service blocks some calls within the United States to avoid a high connection fee.

The FCC sent an inquiry to Google today seeking information about the software’s functionality, its number of users and which companies with which it has partnered.

Google Voice gives users one number to ring all of their phones and a website to log call history and text messages. The service also provides free calls within the United States.


But AT&T alleges that Google Voice refuses to connect calls to rural communities where local telephone companies charge higher fees. AT&T did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.

This isn’t the first time Google’s foray into telephony has drawn the attention of federal regulators. In July, the FCC began probing a dispute between AT&T, Apple and Google after Apple blocked Google Voice software from its iPhone App Store.

Apple says it has reservations about the application’s interface and is still considering it for approval. AT&T says it was not involved in that decision.

In an interview on Thursday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission is still keeping an eye on the iPhone dispute.

‘We take Apple at its word,’ Genachowski said. ‘We’ll continue to monitor the specific issue and to monitor the marketplace.’

Does the FCC even have the authority to regulate whether Apple carries Google’s program or whether Google has to connect every call?

In a response to the former, Genachowski said, ‘We’ll tackle the authority issues when we get to that point.’ The mentality is part of, as the new chairman called it, a ‘proactive FCC.’

-- Mark Milian