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FCC To Probe Google Voice Over Call Blocking

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the keep-your-eye-on-the-ball dept.

Communications 86

Over the past few months, we've been following the FCC's inquiry into Apple and AT&T after they rejected Google Voice from the App store. A couple weeks ago, AT&T did their best to deflect the FCC by dangling a shiny object in front of them — the use of Google Voice to block calls. It now appears the FCC has taken the bait, as they've sent an official inquiry to Google asking why the service restricts connections. "In its letter, the FCC asked Google to describe how its calls are routed and whether calls to particular numbers are prohibited. It also asks for information on how restrictions are implemented, how Google informs customers about those restrictions, whether Google Voice services are free, and if Google ever plans to charge for them in the future." Richard Whitt has already posted a brief explanation on Google's Public Policy blog. "The reason we restrict calls to certain local phone carriers' numbers is simple. Not only do they charge exorbitant termination rates for calls, but they also partner with adult sex chat lines and 'free' conference calling centers to drive high volumes of traffic." The FCC also received a push from members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

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Fine (5, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | about 5 years ago | (#29699903)

AT&T receives goverment aids so the rural area's get supported too, and then by law they have to support them. Google doesn't receive any money to run the *free* service, and they couldn't provide it as free if they had to support calls to those rural areas too (who are obviously abusing the system with their premium priced sex lines and so on)

Google could always make a system where users could call to those areas with credit so users cover the costs themself, but I dont see why they would need to.

Re:Fine (1)

ZackSchil (560462) | about 5 years ago | (#29700297)

Not sex lines necessarily, but "free" or cheap teleconference services that you call in to using a standard area code number. Connecting to this area code costs the phone company a fortune, but you never see an additional charge on your bill because you get charged by the minute.

Re:Fine (2, Informative)

jimmydevice (699057) | about 5 years ago | (#29700543)

Apparently AT&T misplaced or spent that cash on something other than rural service. I would guess 90% of the people in my county do not have access to any wired broadband. I talked to the telco reps and they stated they need at least 300 customers. That's difficult when the minimum lot size is 5 acres.

Re:Fine (2, Informative)

conureman (748753) | about 5 years ago | (#29700661)

Does AT&T respond to congressional pressure? Sometimes you can get your congressman to give 'em a phone call or whatever it is they do. It's called "Constituent Service" and in rural areas it's kinda what they're supposed to be doing. Why do you think they build "bridges to nowhere" in Alaska and stuff like that. I used to always get my way with the phone providers (after the usual hellish delays) by calmly and persistently explaining that they were incorrect, and if I couldn't wear them down into acquiescense, I'd inform them that they were a public utility, & I was going to take it up with the (California) P.U.C. YMMV, but it works out here.

Re:Fine (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 5 years ago | (#29703621)

AT&T never took my threats seriously but I got calls from presidents and vice presidents AFTER I contacted the PUC. But now I just don't do business with them anymore. Why bother when they are actively hostile toward their customers.

Vonage provides a nice service much cheaper and is happy to have me.

Re:Fine (1)

nxtw (866177) | about 5 years ago | (#29701085)

The USF does not cover broadband Internet service.

Re:Fine (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 years ago | (#29701785)

Depending on how you state it, the USF does cover much of the cost of broadband service.

Re:Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29702075)

It only covers providing landline service. To be able to provide broadband, AT&T needs to ensure that there is a central office close enough by that the wires for the whole area will be less than the limitation for loop length on a DSL wire.

I don't even live in a rural area and I can't get DSL.

Re:Fine (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 years ago | (#29702159)

It only covers providing landline service. To be able to provide broadband, AT&T needs to ensure that there is a central office close enough by that the wires for the whole area will be less than the limitation for loop length on a DSL wire.

You contradict yourself. It covers landlines, and you have a problem with your landline in that the nearest CO is too far away. USF will pay for loop length reduction. I know, I've seen it done. If you can't get it now because you are too far away, USF can pay for the upgrade for you to get it. It can't pay for a data service directly (unless you are a school, library, or other of the organizations that do get checks from USF for data services, so even then it does pay directly for data), but it does pay for the upgrades so you can get data services.

I don't even live in a rural area and I can't get DSL.

Either your carrier completely sucks, or your landline service is insufficient, and USF pays for landline service upgrades. That includes FTTH.

Re:Fine (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 years ago | (#29703147)

Either your carrier completely sucks, or your landline service is insufficient, and USF pays for landline service upgrades. That includes FTTH.

AT&T is NOT repeat NOT replacing any hardware that is not DAMAGED. If I want DSL out here, I'm going to have to go blow up the termination box, wherever the hell it is. At that point they'll replace it with something with half a DSLAM in it, or at least, this is the pattern. Some friends of mine got DSL after someone crashed a car into the one on their street.

Re:Fine (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 years ago | (#29705181)

AT&T is NOT repeat NOT replacing any hardware that is not DAMAGED.

I'm not telling you how companies are or are not rolling out things. I'm stating the fact that USF pays for such things. That means that AT&T falls under the "your carrier completely sucks" clause. They would get free money from the USF if they did it.

Re:Fine (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 years ago | (#29705249)

If there's free money they're all over it, so they're either making claims as fast as they can or they're already using the maximum amount of money they can siphon out of the system for some other purpose. Either way, the point is that these theoretical funds are not going to help most of us.

Re:Fine (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 years ago | (#29705541)

So you have no idea how the system works. You don't know what the funds can be used for. But, since they didn't help you personally, they don't help "most of us" (a silly claim since those funds built out the infrastructure, so even if they aren't benefiting you now, they benefited the company that serves you so that they would provide lines to people like you). You premises are all false. You have no foundation to speak on this subject. Your logic is wrong. And yet someone with a degree in telecommunications who has worked years in the industry must be wrong because you have a feeling about it since you don't get DSL. Yeah, I'm convinced. You are obviously an expert on USF and it obviously doesn't pay for any line upgrades anywhere since you didn't get upgraded.

Re:Fine (1)

coaxial (28297) | about 5 years ago | (#29700803)

AT&T receives goverment aids so the rural area's get supported too

This isn't the 1930s anymore. Are you really sure that subsidies are still required?

Re:Fine (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | about 5 years ago | (#29701271)

Once the wires were run it no longer actually costs a fortune to connect to those areas.

However, the telecom companies still charge a fortune for the privilege, and we certainly still pay subsidies to them in the form of an aditional tax that goes straight to the telecoms.

Maintenance of those areas is more expensive, but nowhere near what they get for supporting them.

Re:Fine (1)

coaxial (28297) | about 5 years ago | (#29702027)

My point exactly.

Re:Fine (2, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | about 5 years ago | (#29701069)

AT&T receives goverment aids so the rural area's get supported too, and then by law they have to support them.

The Universal Service Fund [wikipedia.org] is what you are thinking of. It is a tax imposed on phone companies, and some of this money does go to subsidize phone services for low-income and high-cost consumers. The USF is clearly flawed [tmcnet.com] , but it does not require that wireless carriers provide rural service. Wireless carriers who get money from the USF do so as "competitive" carriers to the local telephone company...

Re:Fine (1)

Sarlin (1309837) | about 5 years ago | (#29732417)

"It is a tax imposed on phone companies"

I know that is how it reads, but the truth is that it is a tax imposed on the consumer. I pay my own bill plus I sign off on all the telecommunication bills for the company I work for and know that the USF is passed to the consumer. That is why any of the ridiculous plans congress comes up with whereby they say they will just 'tax' an industry (tobacco, telecommunications, oil, etc.) ends up just being more taxation on the private citizen or small businesses. Large corporations like AT&T will NEVER absorb those costs.

Re:Fine (1)

nxtw (866177) | about 5 years ago | (#29732847)

I know that is how it reads, but the truth is that it is a tax imposed on the consumer. I pay my own bill plus I sign off on all the telecommunication bills for the company I work for and know that the USF is passed to the consumer. That is why any of the ridiculous plans congress comes up with whereby they say they will just 'tax' an industry (tobacco, telecommunications, oil, etc.) ends up just being more taxation on the private citizen or small businesses. Large corporations like AT&T will NEVER absorb those costs.

This is how companies typically do business: if the costs to provide a product or service increase for all competitors, they'll probably all increase their prices. Could be taxes, could be energy, could be equipment, could be raw materials.

USF is different from sales tax, which is a tax on consumers but collected by retailers. Some entities may be exempt from sales tax, so retailers do not collect sales tax for purchases by sales tax exempt organizations. The USF is charged on the phone companies' revenues from certain services.

Phone companies choose to itemize USF because it lets them advertise lower prices.

Re:Fine (1)

rs79 (71822) | about 5 years ago | (#29704165)

One of the things we learned in the DNS wars is the lobbing technique of AT&T. The spend millions of dollars on this, and anywhere you turn you find AT&Y wonks buying dinner and drinks for anybody of import, aside from the lobbying efforts inside DC. Congress critters are so receptive to this it just isn't funny.

So this thing that's happening now? AT&T bought it and it has nothing to do with the merits of the situation.

The most cogent write up of this is Lauren Weinstein's: http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000623.html [vortex.com]

Lauren is heavily involved with net.neutrality and has been around for ages. I met him when he was a Lucent (Bell Labs) guy, he had the office next to Brian Reid.

Wikipedia article (1)

MoxFulder (159829) | about 5 years ago | (#29705483)

I was pretty mystified by the mechanics of the whole scheme described here, so I read a bunch of the sources cited here, and wrote a Wikipedia article on Traffic pumping [wikipedia.org] . Hope it will be useful to others trying to understand this weird regulatory scam.

Wow, FCC with a clue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29699939)

FCC finally investigating companies and following up claims of other companies! It must be cold down in hell these days.

Re:Wow, FCC with a clue? (4, Interesting)

uassholes (1179143) | about 5 years ago | (#29699985)

Maybe they're trying to cover their asses.

AT&T apparently now wants web applications -- from Skype to Google Voice -- to be treated the same way as traditional phone services. Their approach is what a former FCC chairman has called "regulatory capitalism," the practice of using regulation to block or slow down innovation. And despite AT&T's lobbying efforts, this issue has nothing to do with network neutrality or rural America. This is about outdated carrier compensation rules that are fundamentally broken and in need of repair by the FCC.

Re:Wow, FCC with a clue? (4, Funny)

fucket (1256188) | about 5 years ago | (#29700233)

I would be too, if someone kept trying to probe me.

Re:Wow, FCC with a clue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29702973)

Maybe they're trying to cover their asses.

AT&T apparently now wants web applications -- from Skype to Google Voice -- to be treated the same way as traditional phone services. Their approach is what a former FCC chairman has called "regulatory capitalism," the practice of using regulation to block or slow down innovation. And despite AT&T's lobbying efforts, this issue has nothing to do with network neutrality or rural America. This is about outdated carrier compensation rules that are fundamentally broken and in need of repair by the FCC.

Put it like this: in spite of AT&T's 80's TV spots with Cliff Robertson about the future and "who's going to bring it to you? AT&T", the outfit that brought us what the incumbents should have done years ago wasn't even a phone company. It was an online advertising company known as Google (who admittedly bought the service formerly known as Grand Central.) AT&T and the rest should be embarrassed as hell that a service as relevant and popular as Google Voice had to come from a third party. The telecoms could have done it ... but couldn't be bothered. The FCC can make noises about "encouraging competition" and "increasing innovation" all it wants, but when a company actually does that they should be welcomed, not bitch-slapped. Personally, I like my Google Voice service, I use it all the time, and if the FCC and Congress manage to get it shut down at AT&T's behest I will be thoroughly pissed off.

I guess the "new" AT&T can't take a little competition any more than the old AT&T could.

Re:Wow, FCC with a clue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704459)

is what a former FCC chairman has called "regulatory capitalism,"

No, that's just plain ol' capitalism. What's the point of all that money of you can't use it to buy a few congress critters?

Re:Wow, FCC with a clue? (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about 5 years ago | (#29706301)

Their approach is what a former FCC chairman has called "regulatory capitalism," ...

The traditional term for this situation is "regulatory capture", where the incumbent organizations learn to take advantage of (and even gain influence over) regulations in their field to inhibit competition. It is well known that regulations tend to make profit harder to come by, all else being equal; what is not quite so well known is that regulations tend to make things even more difficult for upstart competitors than for the established providers who have had time to learn all the tricks of the trade (and all the regulatory loopholes).

"Regulatory capitalism", on the other hand, is a contradiction in terms.

Re:Wow, FCC with a clue? (1, Redundant)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | about 5 years ago | (#29701185)

Nope just AT&T flexing their congressmen again.

i just got off the toilet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29700029)

i shit out an obama.

plop!

Re:i just got off the toilet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29700555)

Guess what!!! Your shit just won the Nobel Peace Prize!!!

Re:i just got off the toilet (-1, Troll)

jimmydevice (699057) | about 5 years ago | (#29700657)

How did it taste?

Re:i just got off the toilet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29700867)

Like chickenshit?

this isn't about apple (2, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about 5 years ago | (#29700045)

I see this more about disclosure than about whether free calls exist on the iPhone(of course, over WiFi they do). Despite the clearly myopic tone of the article, the issue is disclosure.

For instance, a relative switched to VOIP due to significant costs saving. Though this relative is good at asking questions, several hidden and opportunity costs were never fully disclosed. This person still uses primarily a land line, so when the land line went out for several weeks due to a power disruption, there was very limited phone since she was not comfortable with a cell phone, and many friend in foreign land were never given this number. There there was the excessive costs to make foreign calls, and complex prepaid cards were not an option.

No matter what we think of Google, we have to admit they play fast and loose with their free services. Long outages, removal of service at the drop of hat by any arbitrary third party. The business model does not allow for end user services, since the end user is not the customer. If Google plays such a game with the phone app, who is going to be blamed? Not Google. Apple will have to take the calls.

In any case the point is moot. Android sales are expected to dwarf iPhone sales within a few years. There are expected to be many models out this year. Google can supply all these phones with Google Voice and prove that they can reliably serve customers needs. In fact, if Google Voice is as great as everyone says, it would likely be the killer app, the market differentiation, that would make Adroid phones an unbeatable value. Free phone calls. Free email. Why would anyone want anyone else. At that point, Apple would have to include the App.

Re:this isn't about apple (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#29700623)

You don't really understand how google voice works do you?

Here's a sarter -- there is nothing about google voice that will ever enable free phone calls on a cellphone unless the cellphone service independently allows free phone calls.

Re:this isn't about apple (4, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | about 5 years ago | (#29700921)

Unless you have one of those "favorites" things in your cell plan, where you have unlimited calls to 5 numbers (or whatever). Add your GV number as one of your favorites and config your GV account so incoming calls pass the GV caller ID instead of the normal caller pass-through it does, and you effectively have unlimited calling on the cheapest possible plan (not free, but close enough). At that point, it's as cheap as, if not cheaper than, Skype. Couple that with the fact that you can have all of the GV SMS services go over email and that Google now offers push services for many phones, and you're as close to free as you can ever hope.

I think T-Mobile started it; I saw an ad from AT&T offering a similar thing a couple days ago. I can't imagine Verizon and Sprint are too far off if they're not offering it already since the carriers all seem to mimic each other pretty quickly.

It's neither perfect nor foolproof, but until you can rig it up so that you have end-to-end VOIP (which is probably only a couple years out; carriers are starting to realize their future is data, not minutes), it's a decent approximation.

Re:this isn't about apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29704835)

s/T-Mobile/Alltel

Alltel started it with their "My Circle" plan, T-Mobile copied it as "My Favs", then everyone else followed.

Alltel was recently purchased by Verizon.

Re:this isn't about apple (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#29707429)

Unless you have one of those "favorites" things in your cell plan, where you have unlimited calls to 5 numbers (or whatever).

I thought everybody knew about those promotions, that's why I said, "...unless the cellphone service independently allows free phone calls." It still isn't google giving you the call for free, it is the cell phone provider choosing not to charge you by the minute for those calls (you still must pay the monthly fee).

Re:this isn't about apple (1)

arminw (717974) | about 5 years ago | (#29700831)

...Free phone calls. Free email...

Free beer, free pizza, everybody wants everything for free these days. Well, TANSTAAFL, (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch) somebody always pays for it, usually the end customer. Free apps from Google aren't free, although they are paid by advertising, all advertisers include the cost of advertising in whatever product or service they provide.
Flat rates for telephone calls, Internet service, or in some places still even water, are great, except for those few who abuse such services. There are a few who will spend hours on transcontinental telephone calls and download tens of gigabytes of data. Such hogs may make up about 5% of the total user base, but use up 80% or more of available resources.

Re:this isn't about apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29701225)

tens of gigabytes? LOL, I download hundreds of gigabytes each month! And I upload about the same. Also, STFU. It's not a limited resource if I do it during off-peak hours. My maximum speed is capped and if their lines are not saturated, then that bandwidth is going to waste. I might as well use it.

Re:this isn't about apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29706483)

Google isn't playing fast & loose at all. Their service is free. If I'm not paying for the services they can do whatever they want with my calls. The GV service is in free beta mode atm. Do you honestly not get the word BETA??? I don't EXPECT GV to be 100% reliable. The moment they ask for money I begin to have that expectation. Which btw their international calls do require cash, and those have been awesome so far for me which is why I use GV since AT&T limited Skype in the rest from VoIP without Wifi. :)

got my gvoice number this week (2, Interesting)

SoupGuru (723634) | about 5 years ago | (#29700055)

It's a pretty interesting idea and I'd love to see what improvements are made to it over time.

I hear Verizon is bragging about their new deal with Google and Android while also stating they're going to support Google Voice. As a Verizon customer I hope that means I can eventually have other Verizon customers call my Google Voice number and get connected to my Verizon cell and not burn any out-of-network minutes. That's definitely a marketable stance to take in contrast to AT&T's.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (2, Interesting)

rcolbert (1631881) | about 5 years ago | (#29700109)

While I don't think Gvoice is the end-state of the industry, I think it's going to put a lot of pressure on the concept of minutes altogether. Remember when people paid for blocks of time for dial-up access? I think we'd all agree that the new broadband model, although still not perfect, is vastly superior. Once connectivity over the airwaves starts to approach minimal broadband speeds in a pervasive way, I can see a model emerging where people start to pay by bandwidth tiers rather than minutes. Then, how you use your connection is entirely up to you. Perhaps bandwidth sufficient for regular voice and text are the lower tier, bandwidth for a decent Internet experiences might be the next tier, and bandwidth sufficient for rich media might be the top tier.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (2, Insightful)

thule (9041) | about 5 years ago | (#29700283)

The problem is that there are regulations for phone companies. These would have to be completely revamped for your idea to work. What is happening with Google is that they are thinking like you are. The problem is that Google has made themselves into a phone company, but don't want to play by phone company rules. They want to treat some phone numbers different than other numbers. A real phone company can't do that. They have to pay the charge back rules no matter what. They have to charge the customer as regulated by the utility commissions. AT&T wants Google to play by the same rules they have to.

This is similar to net neutrality. The difference is that the Internet has a flat rate model already. AT&T wants to be able to differentiate traffic if they need to, but Google says that they should have to handle all traffic the same way. Okay, fine, then Google must handle all phone traffic the same way.

The FCC could fix this by changing how "long distance" companies that terminate domestically charge back the phone company. I don't know what this would look like though.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (3, Interesting)

rcolbert (1631881) | about 5 years ago | (#29700501)

These are all good thoughts, and the main theme in common is that something has to change. IMO the prime candidate for change is the outdated telephone rules and regulations. The more voice services that are exempt from those rules, the more willing the traditional telephone carriers will be to do away with them wholesale in favor of a more unified approach to data transmission. At the end of the day, it's all bits and bytes floating around from point A to point B. While changing the system isn't going to be simple, it is certainly inevitable. Who would have thought 20 years ago that we would end over-the-air analog broadcasting of television by now?

Re:got my gvoice number this week (1)

selven (1556643) | about 5 years ago | (#29701297)

Google didn't accept public money from the government and the ability to set up phone lines around cities.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (2, Informative)

SeanMon (929653) | about 5 years ago | (#29701589)

The problem is that Google has made themselves into a phone company, [emph. added] but don't want to play by phone company rules.

This is fundamentally wrong. There is no way to place or receive phone calls without an existing phone service.

(SMS messages are slightly different because with Google Voice you can send and receive SMS without another phone service. However, no landline phone services (that I know of) support SMS, so I don't believe that's relevent.)

Re:got my gvoice number this week (1)

paul248 (536459) | about 5 years ago | (#29701729)

There is no way to place or receive phone calls without an existing phone service.

That's not entirely true. Assuming you have a phone number to initialize your account with, you can forward your calls to Gizmo and use a SIP phone.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29702007)

So assuming you already have a phone you don't need a phone. That's good to know.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29703169)

So assuming you already have a phone you don't need a phone. That's good to know.

I used to feel like that whenever I'd move to a new place and have to call SBC to get new service.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29702043)

Gizmo being a "phone service"...

Re:got my gvoice number this week (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about 5 years ago | (#29718223)

Yup, still true. In your example, Gizmo is the "phone service" the OP mentioned.

Re:got my gvoice number this week (3, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#29700359)

out-of-network minutes aren't particularly likely to exist in 3 or 4 years (Boost is currently setting the stage, charging $50 a month for unlimited voice, with no contract).

which members of Congress (3, Interesting)

Dan667 (564390) | about 5 years ago | (#29700123)

Would be nice to know who the sellouts are.

Re:which members of Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29701481)

Here you go:

http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml
http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

So let's get this straight... (2, Insightful)

Kickboy12 (913888) | about 5 years ago | (#29700131)

The FCC was blaming AT&T...
AT&T said don't look at us, blame Google Voice!
Google Voice said it's not our fault, it's the use of "traffic pumping" thats causesing high fees
The guys going the traffic pumping are probably blaming the people running the rural telephone systems...
The people running the rural telephone systems are just trying to turn a profit in a rural area with few calls being made...

When everyone is really just trying to make a profit, who is really the bad guy here?

Re:So let's get this straight... (4, Informative)

Kesch (943326) | about 5 years ago | (#29700303)

Well... no. There's no real bad guy here, but it isn't such a cut and dry blame game.

The FCC starts asking why AT&T is blocking Google Voice on the iPhone.

AT&T tries to shed some of the heat by changing topics and asking why Google doesn't have to connect these expensive rural providers that AT&T is legally forced to connect to.

Now, these expensive rural end points are apparently a little slimy since they like to partner with high volume services to draw calls into their network which they can then charge a premium for.

Of course, Google and AT&T aren't exactly analogous. So it's not clear that Google should be held to the same standards. One company is providing a completely free service while the other receives subscription fees. Also one is providing full phone service complete with a dial tone, while the other is fancy routing for your existing services. Finally, one has gotten government subsidies to support expensive coverage of rural areas while the other has received nothing.

I appreciate that the FCC is asking these questions though. They're fairly reasonable questions. In fact, the FCC has been fairly competent as of late. They might still be a little weak when it comes to laying the smackdown and righting the wrongs of telecom industry (of which there are a lot). But they have shown active interest in investigating possible abuses, and know the right questions to ask when they show up.

oh america (1, Troll)

nimbius (983462) | about 5 years ago | (#29700133)

land of the fee
home of the paid.

its always a new player that wants to shake up ma bell, to innovate in ways theyve never tried and to level the playing field for real competition. time and time again its proven by pre-paid legislators, lobbyists and interest groups: you dont fuck with the megacorps. especially not the bells.

if google manages to get anything out of this, which judging by their resistance to the bush administration in the past they may just, I will be very surprised indeed. Once, just once, id love to see something new happen to the communications industry...real competition that follows the lines of the capitalism ive been taught, not the cronyism ive come to expect.

off topic, but id like to see real competition in any industry with a government sanctioned monopoly as well.

Re:oh america (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29703109)

you dont fuck with the megacorps. especially not the bells.

And if Google Voice were still just the original Grand Central, I might agree with you 100% ... but remember that AT&T is not stepping on some small upstart company with a good idea and not much else. Google is a megacorp itself, one that even the likes of AT&T would be wise not to take on in court. That's why they're trying to use the regulatory approach first: get Congress to nip Google Voice in the bud and regulate out any possible future competition that might run along similar lines. Fortunately for us Google Voice users, Google is a pretty high-profile operation. Screwing around with them too much wouldn't make certain members of Congress look very good. Not that many of them are of much use anyway, when you get right down to it. Matter of fact, it's amazing that some 434 people have managed to fuck up the lives of hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens to such an incredible degree.

Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29700147)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.
You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER
Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.
Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.
Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.
Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS - MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE
Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN
They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?
Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".
Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. - WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?
A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.
What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?
They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD
And you were expecting what?

SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?
When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Black People (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29700153)

Welcome to Niggerbuntu

Niggerbuntu is a Linux-based operating system consisting of Free and Open Source software for laptops, desktops, and servers. Niggerbuntu has a clear focus on the user and usability - it should Just Work, even if the user has only the thinking capacities of a sponge. the OS ships with the latest Gnomrilla release as well as a selection of server and desktop software that makes for a comfortable desktop experience off of a single installation CD.

It also features the packaging manager ape-ghetto, and the challenging Linux manual pages have been reformatted into the new 'monkey' format, so for example the manual for the shutdown command can be accessed just by typing: 'monkey shut-up -h now mothafukka' instead of 'man shutdown'.

Absolutely Free of Charge

Niggerbuntu is free software, and available to you free of charge, as in free beer or free stuffs you can get from looting. It's also Free in the sense of giving you rights of Software Freedom. The freedom, to run, copy, steal, distribute, study, share, change and improve the software for any purpose, without paying licensing fees.

Free software as in free beer !

Niggerbuntu is an ancient Nigger word, meaning "humanity to monkeys". Niggerbuntu also means "I am what I am because of how apes behave". The Niggerbuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Niggerbuntu to the software world.

The dictator Bokassa described Niggerbuntu in the following way:

        "A subhuman with Niggerbuntu is open and available to others (like a white bitch you're ready to fsck), affirming of others, does not feel threatened by the fact that other species are more intelligent than we are, for it has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that it belongs to the great monkey specie."

We chose the name Niggerbuntu for this distribution because we think it captures perfectly the spirit of sharing and looting that is at the heart of the open source movement.

Niggerbuntu - Linux for Subhuman Beings.

The TRUTH about Slashdot! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29700155)

Imagine a giant penis flying towards your mouth, and there's nothing you can do about it. And you're like "Oh man, I'm gonna have to suck this thing", and you brace yourself to suck this giant penis. But then, at the last moment, it changes trajectory and hits you in the eye. You think to yourself "Well, at least I got that out of the way", but then the giant penis rears back and stabs your eye again, and again, and again. Eventually, this giant penis is penetrating your gray matter, and you begin to lose control of your motor skills. That's when the giant penis slaps you across the cheek, causing you to fall out of your chair. Unable to move and at your most vulnerable, the giant penis finally lodges itself in your anus, where it rests uncomfortably for 4, maybe 5 hours. That's what using Slashdot is like.

The history of long distance charges (5, Informative)

thule (9041) | about 5 years ago | (#29700163)

I talked to someone that has been in the audio text business (aka 976 or 900 numbers) for years. He explained how this works.

The ability to make money on a number and charge it to the phone company goes back to old traditions in how phone systems work. When your phone company cannot connect a call directly they pay another company to do it for them. For example, if you called another country and your phone company did not operate in that area, your company would pay the company operating in that area to route the call. The company that completed the call would charge back to your phone company. Your phone company would charge a rate that would generally cover those charges. Since everyone was paying per/min it was pretty easy to figure out rates. As more and more long distance companies popped up over the years this tradition continued.

What audio text businesses discovered is that they could register themselves as long distance companies and terminate calls in their down systems (no real routing was happening). The numbers were non-explicit chat lines or up-sell ads to adult numbers. They could *still* make money even if the person never uses the 900 adult content number they are upselling.. As it has become easier and easier to purchase equipment to qualify as a long distance carrier people have setup "free" services. Many times these companies are heavily into the audio text business and the "free" services are simply a more "legitimate" way to make money.

As you can see, this can start to become a big problem for companies that sell flat rate service for domestic calls. The calls are terminating within what would normally be a local call, but the audio text company is charging back a fee that would normally be associated with calling a third world nation with limited phone services.

AT&T does have some what of a point. Google is treating some numbers differently than others.

Re:The history of long distance charges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29701281)

Because some numbers *are* different than other numbers. This is a problem because AT&T must, by law, complete the connection *but* they don't want to structure their customer billing to reflect this. AT&T has a choice to bill that back to the customer and they don't want to. AT&T has 2 options (by law): eat the cost or charge the customer. They have chosen to "eat the cost".

Google, by virtue of NOT having operated for 80 years as a telco monopoly and not having been broken up as the result of a long fight that found them to be an abusive monopoly, has three choices: don't connect, eat the cost, or charge the customer. They have chosen "don't connect".

It seems that both are operating within the law. Google is moving "realtime" voice data over a public network, for free. They are making "best effort".

It's possible that Google will allow the connections at some later time, as long as they can pass the cost back to the cutomer. afaik, AT&T has that option now.

Re:The history of long distance charges (1)

mikelieman (35628) | about 5 years ago | (#29702675)

"AT&T has 2 options (by law): eat the cost or charge the customer. They have chosen to "eat the cost"."

The day AT&T doesn't pass along a cost, is the day Hell freezes over. If anything, the difference is in the Regulatory Recovery Fee or something.

Re:The history of long distance charges (1)

TheGreatDonkey (779189) | about 5 years ago | (#29701285)

There is money to be made by carriers through many odd and complex loopholes.

- Placing calls from certain prefixes to other area codes and/or prefixes can result in actually making money from chargebacks between the carriers, and often times a carrier will partner with the organization doing the calling to give them a slice of the profit.

- Displaying a certain phone # is another one where money can be made, as a carrier may need to pay to "dip" into another's system to obtain the details of the calling number, and the profit again is shared.

- Certain states provide a legally friendly environment for the above, and then some (Iowa). If you know what you are doing and have the money, buying a small block in a small town and running your own carrier has historically been a steady income.

Re:The history of long distance charges (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about 5 years ago | (#29702295)

What the hell is audio text?

Is that like visual smell?

Re:The history of long distance charges (1)

thule (9041) | about 5 years ago | (#29702363)

Apparently I should have left off the last 't' in text. It should have been spelled audiotex:

audiotex [pcmag.com]

Re:The history of long distance charges (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about 5 years ago | (#29702637)

Ahhhh

I tried googling for audiotext and came up with absolutely nothing useful. No wonder ...

Re:The history of long distance charges (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 5 years ago | (#29703843)

OK, so the problem is the government requiring companies like AT&T to even acknowledge the existence of these "audio text" businesses who take advantage of government regulations. The solution is less government regulation (allow AT&T to give these dishonest companies the finger), not more (force Google to submit to their fraud as well).

If you want to be like a telephone company... (1)

kriston (7886) | about 5 years ago | (#29700189)

It's really simple. If you want to be like a phone company, then you need to follow the rules of a telephone company.

Re:If you want to be like a telephone company... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29700251)

So...if you're providing a free service that is not what the telephone company provides, then you follow the same rules? Good logic, bro.

Re:If you want to be like a telephone company... (2, Insightful)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | about 5 years ago | (#29700419)

It's really simple. If you want to be like a phone company, then you need to follow the rules of a telephone company.

At exactly what point is one "like a phone company"? When you enable communication? Voice? Connect to a phone network? Provide a phone number? Do I need to start following FCC carrier rules because I run a Mumble server?

network neutrality (2, Insightful)

HazelMotes (568300) | about 5 years ago | (#29700293)

Those who have been begging for government enforced network neutrality are reaping what they sow, although I'm sure these aren't the fruits they had in mind.

Re:network neutrality (1)

Delwin (599872) | about 5 years ago | (#29700383)

Network neutrality (on the phone network instead of internet) would prevent the exact fees that Google is complaining about (and that AT&T hasn't been paying).

Re:network neutrality (2, Insightful)

thule (9041) | about 5 years ago | (#29700477)

AT&T has been paying those fees. That's the problem. AT&T has to pay the fees because they are a phone company and a phone company *has* to connect those calls. Google is setting itself up as a phone company, but is excluding itself from the rules that phone companies have to play by. The reason there isn't "neutrality" on the phone network is because it really did cost more money to connect to different parts of the world. It wouldn't make sense for a phone company to charge back the same amount to connect the call from US to Canada or US to Moldova. If long distance companies couldn't charge differing rates then there would be parts of the world that be even farther behind in their communication networks.

AT&T is in a situation right now where they unleashed the iPhone on their wireless data network. Wouldn't it be better if they could classify the network traffic so they can mange the growth? Eventually they will have their network built out to support the devices, but until then, wouldn't better if you got some service rather than no service?

I just see issues with network neutrality over reaching. There are times where an ISP may have to mange their network and de-prioritize some types of traffic. Who is to say they can't do this as long as the classes of traffic are treated equally? What happens if an ISP just builds a separate network for traffic they want to prioritize. No QoS, just straight routing rules. Would this violate network neutrality? Yahoo does this all the time by direct peering their content network with consumer networks. They are able to bypass potential bottlenecks so that their traffic gets to end users fast. Would these peering agreements violate net neutrality?

Re:network neutrality (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#29700725)

That's the problem. AT&T has to pay the fees because they are a phone company and a phone company *has* to connect those calls. Google is setting itself up as a phone company, but is excluding itself from the rules that phone companies have to play by.

No, Google is not "setting itself up as a phone company" any more than having answering machine makers are phone companies either.
Google provides a set of services that is layered on top of POTS, without POTS, google voice would be just as useful as an answering machine without a phone line.

Re:network neutrality (3, Informative)

thule (9041) | about 5 years ago | (#29700769)

Google Voice doesn't just receive calls, it also makes outgoing calls. The outgoing calls could be forwarded call or they could be initiated by the Google Voice user. The Google Voice user is make the call not only via their local provider, but by Google Voice's phone services. It would be like dialing a 10-XXX prefix and then a number. In this way, Google Voice is *exactly* like a 10-XXX long distance provider.

Re:network neutrality (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#29700795)

It would be like dialing a 10-XXX prefix and then a number. In this way, Google Voice is *exactly* like a 10-XXX long distance provider.

Except that google's outgoing calls are carried by an actual long distance provider, google does not have any 'peering' equivalents with local telcos, if they did then they would be subject to the same tarifs that actual long distance carriers are.

Re:network neutrality (3, Interesting)

thule (9041) | about 5 years ago | (#29701217)

I think they might be, otherwise they wouldn't need to block some numbers. They would be paying a flat fee. They blocked the numbers because those numbers are apparently costing them more than a normal number. Why?

Re:network neutrality (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#29701275)

I think they might be, otherwise they wouldn't need to block some numbers. They would be paying a flat fee. They blocked the numbers because those numbers are apparently costing them more than a normal number. Why?

Because their wholesale carrier charges google based on their own costs.

Like I said, if google really were their own carrier they would be subject to the same tariffs that all the other carriers are and this would be a non-issue because they would be following the tariffs. The tariffs are so ridiculously complicated due to regulatory capture that no one just "plugs in" and goes, they first hire an army of lawyers to parse everything and tell them what they must do and can't do.

They could explain their better (3, Interesting)

inio (26835) | about 5 years ago | (#29700777)

As a Google Voice user, I was confused when I tried to call a free conference call service and my phone never rang. No error message and the web UI acted like it was placing the call. I tried through the dial-in interface and got "that number is not valid" or something to that extent. They could at least explain WHY they're not allowing the call to go through.

Re:They could explain their better (1)

jc42 (318812) | about 5 years ago | (#29703219)

As a Google Voice user, I was confused when I tried to call a free conference call service and my phone never rang. ... They could at least explain WHY they're not allowing the call to go through.

Maybe what google needs to do is produce a little popup that says something like "This call can't be completed for free because [telco name] charges $x.yz per minute for the connection. Would you like to pay for this connection with a charge card? [YES] [NO]".

They might include a link to a page explaining the charges and the FCC's role in the issue. They could get a few digs in at AT&T while they're at it. This could get across to users what's going on, and put some slight social pressure on the FCC to do something reasonable to fix it.

I wonder how difficult it would be for Google Voice to figure out the telco name and the $x.yz charge, and tell them to the user? In my experience, it can be very difficult for software to discover who's responsible for the various links in a connection. This is carefully hidden from applications by the "layer" structure of the protocols. I've often wanted to have such data for debugging reasons, and it's generally not available via the runtime libraries that I have available. But maybe some of the bright folks at google have a way to get at the information. After all, the software (in some layer) does somehow know not to make the connection.

If AT&T is blocking Google Voice... (1)

Mister Xiado (1606605) | about 5 years ago | (#29701563)

...then why does it still work?

If I was Google my response would be the following (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29701835)

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Google+Voice+restrictions

You get what you pay for. (1)

VertigoMan (727060) | about 5 years ago | (#29701855)

It's free folks. Not intended to replace your phone line but to enhance it. If you want something better then fork over the money for it and then you should be allowed to connect to whoever you like according to your contract.

Until they start charging for service and claiming that this can replace you phone service then I don't see a problem.

Google should block these calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29703719)

These call services (adult chat, conference, fax to email) are simply a way for a rural telco to pump up their carrier access revenue and keep themselves alive when they should have died out long ago because of their lack of foresight and adherence to outdated policies. When a call is placed from your local phone to a number outside the rate center, the call has to be carried by a long distance provider. Why do long distance providers still charge 10 cents or 12 cents a minute in some areas - because the terminating carrier (the one hosting the conference service) charges 10 cents (some places more) a minute for carrier access fees. That means you pay 12 cents a minute to your LD carrier who then turns around and pays 10 cents to the local carrier. This local carrier, the long distance company and your local carrier all receive USF (universal service funds) that you and everyone else has been paying on their phone bills for years. The intercarrier compensation rates have been kept artificially high for rural telcos for years. Because of this, rural subscribers have opted to either stop using their land lines to make long distance calls and start using cell phones (in some cases, this LD call might be to the next town 10 miles away) or drop their land line completely and use a cell or a voip service. The corresponding drop in revenue makes the rural telco then look for other ways to increase their revenue and the easiest way to do this is drive traffic to their switch to increase the carrier access billing. So, Google shouldn't play along. They don't get USF funding, are not a CLEC, ILEC, RBOC or LD carrier and should not have to play by the same rules.

Oh, and the Google service is free ($) to you. If you are bitching that your free service cant be used to call a free adult porn line or free conference service, then pay for a regular line and you can use that all you want. All this could be solved by carriers (all carriers) simply charging a flat rate for unlimited services. A regional cellular carrier where I live charges $50 a month for unlimited talk and text and $100 a month for unlimited talk/text/data (blackberry, android, etc) and it is truly unlimited. I have had the service for 2 years and my bill is exactly the same each month, never any overages, no worrying about who is in my fave 5's or my network or if I am roaming or not. Oh, and my phone bill is a single page - not the book that ATT/Cingular used to send me every month.

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