There has been a ton of conversation lately about AT&T and Apple banning the Google Voice application in the IPhone store. The service has the potential to be a real windfall for the average consumer. Google Voice, which is already available on BlackBerrys, provides users with free domestic calls, inexpensive international calls, free text messaging, call routing and other services. It also makes it trivial to switch to a new phone service, because with GV, everyone calls the same number for all of your phones. The simple fact that this system competes with the the Phone Company for services is just good for the consumer. Companies tend to be more pro-consumer when there is actually competition, and ATT isn’t keen on sharing the revenue from all those calls to Europe.
Google Voice is actually the old Grand Central, a system that let you forward all your calls to a new ‘local’ number. The Gordons are Grand Central users since 2006, and its an excellent service. You can set Google to ring your cell phone if someone calls your home phone, for example. You can have your work phone number ring every phone you have if your out on a long lunch. The kids can text to the GV number, and spam the whole damn family. Not a bad idea nowadays, and if anything it keeps people connected for emergencies and group efforts. A family of 4 in Disney for a week with 1 contact number?
Google Voice closed Grand Central for renovations last year, and it wasn’t until recently that it began accepting new users, and there has still been some hassle associated with actually using the service. IPhone type apps like GV Mobile remove many of those hassles, which is why AT&T is keen to keep them off the iPhone.
The mobile app for Google Voice uses the regular PSTN connection to place a call to Google Voice, which then places a call out to the person you need to reach. Since these calls and text messages originate from your Google Voice, they display your Google Voice number for the recipients. The wireless number you buy from the cell phone company just became irrelevant. The Google Voice app essentially reduces the cell phone carrier to a dumb pipe, and that where the debate centers. As a matter of fact, this is ground zero for the Consumer Vs. the Money Grubbing Telco Shysters. If the average consumer dosen’t make a stink here, your liable to pay twice for every call you make in the future with your cell phone. The point is that your paying for data on the phone, but the phone company won’t let you use it for speaking. Even though its all just data, they won’t let you use your data that way.
Motive? The vast majority of executives at AT&T despise Google because the search giant represents their deepest fear: a future where companies like AT&T are just dumb pipes, over which content companies like Google deliver services that soak up advertising revenue which old school phone executives really do believe belongs to them. The baby bells hate Google so much, they pay obscene $amounts to besmirch the search giant. Both Apple and AT&T conspired just this week to prohibit competition and limit the open Internet in order to protect revenues. While brand loyalists will proclaim such anti-competitive foolishness is just good business, methinks the AT&T and Apple decision to block the Google Voice application is a rare, clear example of a network neutrality violation and should be reviewed at the highest level of Government.
Even if you want to argue semantics and proclaim it’s not technically a neutrality violation because the filtering isn’t happening at a base network level, good for you. It’s still anti-competitive behavior, we just haven’t invented the word for it yet, and we should be collectively wise enough to expect no different from the Money Grubbing Telecos. As we’ve said for many years here @ The Lounge, now is the time for Consumers to stand up for whats right, and make the Networks Neutral.