Last month, we were surprised that certain telcos were blocking calls
to services like FreeConference.com -- since it certainly seems questionable that a telco can suddenly decide for itself that customers aren't allowed to call a certain number. That doesn't mean we didn't understand why
the telcos did this -- it was due to bad regulations
that allowed local telecom operators to charge ridiculously high termination fees to other telcos for terminating calls on their network. The local telcos would then team up with a company offering some compelling free phone service (free conference calls! free international calls!) which would drive a lot of people to call those numbers. As long as the cost of providing the conferencing and the international calls remained cheaper than the termination fees (which was easy thanks to VoIP), the telco and the free phone service company could split the bounty. This absolutely costs the big telcos plenty of money -- but they shouldn't be blocking the phone calls, they should be complaining about the regulations that allowed such exorbitant termination fees in the first place. So while it's highly questionable for the telcos to block these calls (and it will be worth watching the resulting lawsuit
, that doesn't mean that the companies involved look particularly clean. They're basically exploiting bad regulations to scam telcos out of money.
That's why it's pretty disgusting that one of the telcos involved is trying to play itself up as "protecting the little guy."
Yes. Telcos blocking calls is a bad thing -- and it's great that this telco wants to set up a "grassroots effort" (wait, is it really grassroots if a company is backing it for its own benefit?). But the idea that it's doing this to protect the little guy, rather than to scam millions through bad regulations is just silly. While it tries to play up the "David vs. Goliath" aspect by naming all the non-profits and charities that use the free phone services these regulatory messes allow, it seems unlikely that the FCC is going to buy the claim that the telco is really doing this out of the goodness of its heart, rather than the opportunity to fill its bank account. If it doesn't watch out, it seems much more likely that the FCC will start looking much more closely at those bogus regulations that created this situation in the first place.