Google Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is On Open-Access Wireless

from the open-the-wallet dept

Google has been one of the leading voices in the call for the FCC to adopt “open access” rules for winners of spectrum licenses in the upcoming 700 MHz auction. The auction, slated for late this year or early 2008, is a big deal because of the huge amount of spectrum on offer, as well as its propagation characteristics, which makes it ideally suited for high-speed broadband services. Google and a number of consumer groups have put forth a four-point open access plan to the FCC, and the Commission’s chairman, Kevin Martin, appears to have met them halfway. Incumbent operators were, unsurprisingly, not happy with the plan, though AT&T now says it supports it. But Google and the consumer groups weren’t satisfied with Martin’s proposal either, mainly because it didn’t include a provision that would force license winners to sell wholesale access to their networks on a non-discriminatory basis, and they see this as a crucial step in encouraging competition in the broadband space.

One of the telcos’ responses to Martin’s proposal was that putting restrictions and rules on license winners would hamper bidding and hold down the revenues the auction would generate. Now, in an effort to allay those fears, Google says that if the FCC adopts its four-point plan, it will commit to bidding $4.6 billion in the auction. It’s been rumored for some time that Google was interested in getting its hands on some of the 700 MHz spectrum, and it’s even talked about a model for real-time spectrum auctions. Still, saying the company’s willing to pony up the reserve price for the auction doesn’t make it certain that Google will come away with spectrum licenses, since the cost of the licenses will undoubtedly go beyond it — nor is it even certain that Martin and the FCC will care about Google’s pledge all that much. But this should be seen as a signal that Google wants to play ball, and that will cause some concern among incumbent operators. Even if Google itself doesn’t come away with spectrum, it’s possible it could help fund another bidder’s efforts and help create a significant competitor in the wireless and broadband markets.

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Companies: at&t, fcc, google

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Comments on “Google Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is On Open-Access Wireless”

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Woog says:

Re: AC

I for one welcome our new broadband overlords.

Really, at this point could it be any worse than the incumbent getting all of it? While Google is more or less still on the “do no evil” kick, there is no guarantee they will be this way forever. Maybe they will, who knows?

But, even if they did turn evil later one, is that still any worse? The incumbent getting the spectrum, sitting on it, and we’re no better does not sound like a good direction to travel.

John says:

Re: Re: AC

Really, choosing a telco in the US is simply choosing the lesser of evils. I would never recommend one. They all suck . Maybe some suck less than others, but it’s a thin line.

Google is an amazing company and while it’s scary to think of how much power they would have if they controlled some of the airwaves, it’s clearly better than what we have. No current telco wants competition; they would buy it and sit on it and do nothing or lock devices to it, prevent other devices from using it and fix prices.

The spectrum should belong to the people in the first place. We should vote on how it is used and the income should be used for something reasonable. The fact that the spectrum auction is all tied up in FCC bureaucracy and lobbying groups is the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘Open access’ here is misleading when compared to the way it is conventionally used (c.f. publishing). The spectrum will not be available to the public. ‘Open’ would be to return to the public the ability to transmit on these bands (similar to 2.4 GHz band).

This is essential for free communication and thus for freedom itself.

Scott Free says:


First, saying “poor telcos” just slays me. If you have ever been billed by a telco, or needed them to respond with alacrity, you should loose all sympathy for the lethargic behemoths.

Google owning a resource, or infulencing its disposition, bodes well for near-term competitive development. Anyone, really, but the giant competition stifling, quasi old money telcos, or the government!

Dennis Crow says:

free market bandwidth

Free Market would mean that the telcos or any entity would not be allowed to rig the rules in their favor by paying for legislation and using their existing monopoly (gained the same way) to propagandize for their bullshit position. Free market is almost always a lie by people that already own it or are seeking to own it. The principle of the commons, elucidated in the Magna Carta has been repeatedly violated by the likes of these rapacious bastards. When are people going to wake up! I really believe that Google has the best interests of the people in mind. Service to that interest is actually the best way to make money in the short, medium and long runs. Control is the issue of the psychotic psychopathic corporate interests. The end result of this is the death of freedom and everything good that there is to live for.

David Sternlight (user link) says:

Google and spectrum auction

Google has repeatedly proven several things:

1. They are capable of repeated innovation, unlike the Telcos (pace Bell Labs).

2. They are geniuses at business models that are analogous to offering free dope in high school–GMail is a great example. Vast free storage for users, extremely high reliability, and a great user interface in exchange for reasonably unobtrusive yet targeted ads that can easily be mentally filtered out.

If Google gets the spectrum it would not be surprising if they use it for nationwide free wi-fi or wimax or something similar, with ads not unlike those on Gmail. We may also expect all sorts of services integrated with it, along the lines of many existing Google products and test products from Google’s labs.

Integrating it with the iPhone user interface model would be a no-brainer. We can already see the power of web-based applications on the iPhone, and it hasn’t been out for a month. Fasten your seat belts, boys and girls.

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