Google Weighs In On Wireless Open Access Debate - InformationWeek

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7/17/2007
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Google Weighs In On Wireless Open Access Debate

In a recent statement on its public policy blog, Google acknowledged that it does have an interest in participating in the upcoming auction of spectrum in the 700-MHz band.

Critics of a growing movement to push open access for wireless networks accuse companies like search giant Google of being behind the push, while the do-no-evil-company maintains it's just lobbying for public benefit.

In a recent statement on its public policy blog, Google acknowledged that it does have an interest in participating in the upcoming auction of spectrum in the 700-MHz band, but Google's Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt stated that entry into the market by Google or other upstart companies could increase broadband competition and protect consumer interests. Google also recently filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission supporting four types of "open platform requirements" for any winning bidder.

"What would happen if one or some of the existing national wireless carriers win this valuable spectrum at auction," Whitt asked in Google's public policy blog. "They would probably use it to protect their existing business models and thwart the entry of new competitors -- both understandable actions from a rational business perspective. Beyond the loss of a valuable public resource, however, that outcome would not bring us any closer to fostering much-needed competition in the broadband market, or providing innovative new Web applications and service offerings. Too much is at stake for the federal government to let that happen."

Telecommunications and cable companies, some technology industry associations, and taxpayer groups argue that the whole "open access" debate is a misnomer for a system that would actually strain resources and limit use. They argue that the existing system provides for competition and ensures efficiency.

Google wants the FCC to make sure that consumers can download and use any software applications, content, or services they want and use their handheld communications devices with any wireless network. The company wants the FCC to ensure that third parties can use wireless services from a 700-MHz licensee at wholesale prices, under "reasonably nondiscriminatory terms." Finally, Google has asked for third parties, including Internet service providers, to gain the ability to interconnect to a 700-MHz licensee's network.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has floated some ideas for his auction requirement proposal, which has not been publicly released yet and must still be approved by a majority of members of the FCC. It appears he will consider some , but some critics say he does not appear to be going far enough. Information given to news reporters indicates that he agrees with Google's first two requirements, but he has not addressed the second two.

Google expressed optimism but added: "We'll have to see the fine print."

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