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QUICK LINKS Call Blocking Could Push FCC's Hand

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October 05, 2009 Call Blocking Could Push FCC's Hand

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

Speakeasy (News - Alert).com is the latest service provider involved in blocking call completion. The company reportedly is refusing to complete calls to certain free conference call or free adult content sites, according to Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group.

The news comes amidst the AT&T-Google (News - Alert) throw down in which the big telco charges the search giant with blocking Google Voice calls to rural carriers.
“Unless the FCC acts, we can expect other VoIP providers to follow suit,” writes Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge (News - Alert). “But the problem is it is not at all clear what the right decision is for VoIP providers even in the short term.
“Worse, it is not even clear what the right answer is or whether Google Voice is like Speakeasy or like something else entirely,” he continues. “Google described Google Voice to the FCC (News - Alert) as an application that manages existing phone numbers and services, implying that they just leverage the user’s existing phone connections. But why does Google Voice care about intercarrier compensation if they don’t actually make calls?”
Feld adds that “for various reasons, phone networks in rural areas get paid much more money when a call comes from another network and terminates on the rural network. This means if you have a business where lots of people call in and few people call out, you can make money from the uneven compensation. So some clever folks figured out how to take advantage of this and offer some very popular services — free conference calling and porn being the most well-known.”
He notes that the major telcos have fought this kind of activity for some time and, after not getting the results they wanted, opted not to connect to such sites. The FCC responded negatively to those actions and opened a docket to address the issue, Feld explains. But more than a year has passed since then with no real action from the FCC.
But until recently, he says, VoIP providers haven’t pushed the FCC’s hand on the matter. Now, however, that’s beginning to change.
In any case, Feld says that if is going to block calls it “did it right,” because the company first alerted customers via email about the change and listed the sites it is blocking.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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