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.
Since Congress deregulated the telecommunications industry in 1996, much of this traffic comprises extremely lucrative sex chat lines, which the national carriers wind up paying for.
AT&T has never been happy about that, and it's now livid that Google Voice can avoid having to connect such calls -- thus dodging this twisted fee scheme.
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.
Instead, to understand what's going on here, consider this background.
An AT&T spokesperson told Reuters that policymakers would determine if Google is enjoying a "double-standard." Some of the local exchanges have accused AT&T of simply not paying its bills.
In fact, just last week, two local South Dakota carriers, Northern Valley Communications and Sancom, sent a letter to the FCC accusing AT&T of hypocrisy by complaining about Google's ability to block such calls.
"Indeed, if one were to replace 'Google' with 'AT&T,' and call blocking' with 'no pay' in AT&T's [letter to the FCC], Northern Valley and Sancom would have little to add to describe AT&T's unlawful campaign." "Without a hint of irony, AT&T concludes that 'the Commission cannot, through inaction or otherwise, give Google a special privilege to play by its own rules,'" Buntrock added.
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.
AT&T, which has the exclusive right to market Apple's i Phone in the U.