Verizon Wireless Strikes Back At Google Over Open Access - InformationWeek

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Commentary
9/14/2007
01:29 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Verizon Wireless Strikes Back At Google Over Open Access

Just when it looked like the FCC's upcoming auction of 700 MHz spectrum might inject some degree of openness into the U.S. wireless industry, Verizon Wireless struck back with this lawsuit. Will the auction still take place?

Just when it looked like the FCC's upcoming auction of 700 MHz spectrum might inject some degree of openness into the U.S. wireless industry, Verizon Wireless struck back with this lawsuit. Will the auction still take place?That's not certain at this point. But Verizon's legal moves will most likely delay the auction, if not block it outright. What is certain now is that the fight for open access on cellular networks has turned into an all-out brawl with Google on one side and Verizon Wireless on the other.

Chris Sacca, Google's head of special initiatives, summed up Google's position with his thoughts on Verizon's move to block the auction's rules:

The nation's spectrum airwaves are not the birthright of any one company. They are a unique and valuable public resource that belong to all Americans. The FCC's auction rules are designed to allow U.S. consumers -- for the first time -- to use their handsets with any network they desire, and download and use the lawful software applications of their choice.

It's regrettable that Verizon has decided to use the court system to try to prevent consumers from having any choice of innovative services. Once again, it is American consumers who lose from these tactics.

It's pretty obvious that Verizon Wireless is scared by the prospect of Google, Apple, and other technology companies competing freely for customers on its network. Why does this idea scare Verizon so much?

On one hand, I can understand why Verizon Wireless and the rest of the wireless carriers are frustrated by this. These companies have done the heavy lifting of building redundant, nationwide cellular networks. They invested billions of dollars in spectrum. They feel they have a right to recoup these expenses and to continue running their business.

I don't disagree with this at all. But that's not the point. The point is that consumers want more choice and other companies want to be able to compete in this space. Isn't competition always a good thing? And isn't choice more important than propping up a select group of companies and their business model?

The rules of the wireless industry are about to change. And I realize that change can be a scary thing. But how long can Verizon Wireless continue to delay this change? As more consumers, prosumers, and business users continue to use their smartphones to do more tasks online, the demands for open networks will only grow. If the carriers expect to grow their businesses, they will have to meet these new demands. And as we can see, one of these demands is more open network access.

What do you think? Is Verizon Wireless justified here? Or is Google right to continue to push for more open network access?

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