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Google finds traffic-pumping work-around

In response to AT&T's complaints about Google's ability to block access to expensive local service providers, Google Voice now blocks fewer than 100 specific numbers.

Google Voice now blocks just under 100 numbers, which might not satisfy AT&T but might get the FCC off its back.
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Google says it has found a work-around that should allow it to restore access for Google Voice users to most of the local lines it had blocked before AT&T complained about its practices.

AT&T and Google have been engaged in a war of words over Net neutrality and the obscure practice of "traffic-pumping," exchanging letters with the Federal Communications Commission on an almost weekly basis over the past month. Google wants to ensure that broadband Internet providers such as AT&T adhere to the proposed Net neutrality principles, while AT&T wants Google to be held to the same standard as other local telephone service providers.

And so, AT&T had objected to Google's practice of blocking Google Voice users from restricting calls to certain local telephone numbers that host a disproportionate amount of traffic-heavy telephone services like phone sex lines and conference call services. No phone service provider really wants to connect calls to those lines, considering the hefty fees that local operators charge for those calls, but AT&T is required to provide access to those numbers under federal regulations.

Leaving aside the notion of whether Google Voice is subject to the same rules as AT&T--you can guess where each company stands on that question--Google announced Wednesday that it has found a way to limit its block on those particular calls to only the worst offenders. In other words, instead of blocking access to entire telephone prefixes, Google said it has blocked less than 100 specific telephone numbers belonging to the so-called traffic pumpers.

Will this mollify AT&T? Probably not. But Google actually threw AT&T a bone, calling on Congress to change the laws regarding these services.

"While we've developed a fix to address this problem, the bottom line is that we still believe the Commission needs to repair our nation's broken carrier compensation system. The current system simply does not serve consumers well and these types of schemes point up the pressing need for reform," wrote Richard Whitt, Washington telecom and media counsel for Google.