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AT&T and the other major carriers "are in desperate need of reminder of their obligations under the law." "For AT&T to invoke rural America to seek common carriage regulation of online applications, while rural carriers say AT&T isn't even paying its bills, is the height of cynicism," said Mistique Cano, a Google spokesperson."The fact is, we agree that the FCC needs to fix the current rules for compensating phone carriers." A spokesperson for the FCC declined to comment, and AT&T did not immediately return calls requesting comment.On Thursday, after much sniping between AT&T and Google, the dispute reached Congress: A group of 20 House Republicans and Democrats wrote to the FCC urging it to investigate Google's right to block calls to rural telephone exchanges.AT&T, which has the exclusive right to market Apple's i Phone in the U.Naturally, AT&T does not want to pay these exorbitant fees, and yet it's urging the FCC to require Google Voice to connect such calls and pay the fees.
And for the coup de grace, the local exchanges then split AT&T's fees -- which amount to millions of dollars every month -- with the phone sex companies which then turn around and use that money to advertise their services, completing the self-perpetuating cycle.
In recent years, volume to these local numbers has increased dramatically, with phone numbers being used by free conference-call companies as well as sex chat lines with names like "Butt Monkey." Ron Laudner, CEO of Farmers Telephone, a local exchange in Riceville, Iowa, last year told the arrangement was routing some 40 million minutes of calls each month to his exchange, generating .2 million per month.
Since most consumers now have phone service with unlimited long distance or large monthly chunks of minutes, the calls are supercheap -- or effectively free -- for the user, while AT&T and the other long-distance carriers have to shoulder the charges imposed by the local exchanges. Thus, while lawmakers, AT&T, and editorial page might pontificate about how this is all about rural phone customers, or fairness, in reality this is about sex and money -- and everyone knows it, including AT&T, which has long griped about the situation.
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.