There’s been a lot of noise lately about AT&T and Apple and Google not playing nice together. The latest is AT&T carrying on about Google Voice blocking rural numbers because their costs are so much higher. Ok, that’s kind of crappy, but it’s just a red herring. AT&T is making a fuss over this because they also see the real potential. What happens when Google Voice links up with the Google Talk service. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and wondering why GTalk wasn’t a supported endpoint for GVoice yet. I thought it might be technical but now I have my doubts.
At this point GVoice still relies on the telco’s to provide the actual phone service. If GTalk becomes an endpoint then there’s a much stronger argument for Google being a “carrier” instead of just an “internet service”. That brings all of the issues of access, fees and taxes along with it. Would Google have to start collecting a USF and other similar fees for every GTalk user, even pure IM users, on the basis they “could” use the voice component? Pricey! As far as I know, every other bridge to the PSTN (SIP gateways mostly) has to pay the fees and support universal access.
I think that’s the shot across the bow from AT&T and it’s something Google’s been aware of for a while. And it upsets me greatly.
The world is headed in the direction of more XMPP and SIP, not less. AT&T sees this and probably sees Google as the biggest target to slow this adoption down. AT&T is using the admittedly noble idea of universal communication access to beat down it’s competitor. The FCC should instead be looking at how to address issues like the USF in a world of online focused communications. The trend for land line terminations is only going to increase to the point where only poor people have landlines, subsidized by the USF. Where will those fees come from when everyone is online focused? This isn’t a new thing and it’s obviously been one of the top issues for the FCC.
Perhaps the USF should be added to (more) data lines. Or the Fed Gov can just take it from us with other taxes. They seem to be pretty good at that already.
Most of all, it’s shameful that AT&T is using USF and universal access as a hammer to beat on it’s competitor. Hey AT&T, how about being more competitive and innovative instead? I won’t hold my breath.