Discussion of the upcoming auction for licenses for 700 MHz spectrum has been dominated by the desire of Google and other groups to have "open-access" rules
put in place. These rules would force license winners to sell wholesale access to their networks, allow any compatible device to be used on them, and follow net neutrality principles. The FCC paid some lip service
to the issue by attaching just two of the conditions (net neutrality and allowing the use of any compatible device) to just a portion of the spectrum, and adding that the conditions will be dropped and the auction for the relevant licenses restarted without them if a reserve price of $4.6 billion isn't met. This was a political show that made it look like the FCC was taking some action, but the likely overall impact on the market will be minimal
. Perhaps what made it clear that the rules were toothless and wouldn't have much competitive impact was the fact that incumbent telcos AT&T and Verizon voiced some support for them. But it would appear Google execs' comments that the company will "probably" bid
on the spectrum, even though the FCC didn't adopt all its proposed principles has spooked Verizon, as the telco is now suing the FCC
, saying it overstepped its authority in putting the conditions on the licenses.
When it looked like the open-access rules wouldn't have any effect, and that the auction for the licenses with them wouldn't attract enough buyers to hit that $4.6 billion reserve price, Verizon went the politically and PR-expedient route and voiced its support for them. Now that it looks like Google's going to be ready to pounce on the spectrum and pay the reserve price, Verizon contends the rules are illegal. Without the involvement of Google or another deep-pocketed bidder, Verizon could wait for the auction to restart without the rules, then pick up the spectrum free from the open-access rules. Since it looks like Google will bid up to the reserve price, Verizon faces the prospect of getting caught in a bidding war with the company, and should it win, it would have to operate any network in the spectrum with the open-access rules -- which it clearly doesn't want to do.