A bipartisan group of lawmakers have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate Google Voice, Google's VoIP call routing service. The agency, under the leadership of its new chairman, Julius Genachowski, responded quickly by sending a letter to Google late Friday, asking the company to explain their blocking practices.
Google Voice provides outbound calling for users, but Google blocks outbound calls to certain numbers, including some free conference call services. A group of lawmakers, including House Energy and Commerce Committee members Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican and Charlie Melancon, a Louisiana Democrat, have written to FCC Chairman requesting the Commission initiate an investigation into Google's call blocking.
Google Voice's call blocking primarily targets numbers in rural areas, due to telephone regulations that require additional connection fees for incoming calls to some rural telephone companies. The lawmakers' letter highlights this fact, calling Google's blocking, "ill conceived and unfair to our rural constituents."
Traditional phone companies are prohibited from blocking their customers from connecting to long distance numbers in the way that Google Voice blocks its users from making calls. While Google Voice's call-blocking scheme may be saving the company the cost of connection fees, it does beg the question how a company that advocates that the federal government adopt network nondiscrimination regulations for the Internet can discriminate which numbers its VoIP service can connect to.