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FCC To AT&T and Qwest: Stop Blocking Calls

May 3, 2007
Paul Kaputska from GigaOm reports today that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has just told AT&T and Qwest to stop blocking calls into numbers for Iowa-based free conference call provider,  threatening punitive actions if the carriers didn’t comply.

In the short term, this is a victory for the Iowa operations. Yet it is unresolved at present whether or not the Qwest and AT&T need to pay millions of in-dispute connection fees to the Iowa companies.  

Martin said the FCC regards the call-blocking practices as a violation of FCC rules- and told representatives of AT&T and Qwest that much.

“We actually contacted the companies that were listed in the press [reports] and said our rules prohibit you from blocking consumers’ access to any of the service providers,” Kapuskta quoted Martin as saying.  Kaputska added that Martin said the informal communication to the big telcos who were blocking calls was that if they didn’t stop immediately, the commission would start a formal process for legal recourse within days, and “would end up taking action as we saw necessary.”

According to Martin, all the offending telcos responded and said they would stop blocking — sort of. “One had stopped blocking, but we heard complaints the next week that they were restricting access, sort of narrowing the pipe,” said Martin. “We called them back and said, no, no, you can’t artificially degrade [service] either.”

On whether or not the FCC would force AT&T and Qwest to pay disputed access-charge bills, Martin said that was a separate issue, and covered by petitioning processes that might take further time to resolve. “If you have a dispute about the intercarrier compensation rules, you can file petitions, and come to the commission to get redress,” Martin said. “But you can’t just stop letting consumers make those calls.”

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