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Google As Corporate Cop Creates Enemies

Big, powerful, frightening ones

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One, among many, things can be said about Google: The company has taken punches from some pretty powerful hitters and has not gone away. The drama that has played out over the years has lived up to its hype and shows no sign of falling curtains. The drama will just get grander actually, as Google encroaches on the territories of more empires.

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(Photo Credit: Google)

Microsoft, for example, has to be feeling pretty frustrated lately. The old tale of Steve Ballmer throwing a chair and vowing the death of Google still rests in the back of the minds that remember. Just as it became clear the Beast of Redmond would never break Google’s stranglehold on the search market, would never come even close, Vista unveiled as a vista unheralded and then Yahoo told them to shove it.

Jealousy and obsession haven’t served Microsft well and all Google really has to do now to kick Microsoft while its down is release an operating system and a game console – or buy some new shoes to help Apple do it. Don’t feel too bad for Microsoft. After years of locking companies out of the market, there’s something karmic about it, but also the company has the funds and the savvy and the pride to rebound, and rebound hard.

Judging by a recent job ad in Europe, Microsoft is far from giving up and has forgone subtlety altogether. Valleywag has the screencap of the company’s ongoing search for a "google killer."

So too has Google ruffled the feathers of peripheral industry giants. AT&T sent warning shots to Google years ago, sparking the still ongoing Net Neutrality debate, which pulls in Verizon as yet another Google antagonist—or the other way around depending on which logo is on the paycheck. Google has proved itself a scrappy opponent and very nearly a self-appointed police agent to enforce open standards in broadband and wireless connectivity.

Some can easily argue Google’s foot coming down on what will eventually be the right side of history is more self-serving than utopian. Google itself benefits greatly from Net Neutrality and open standards, especially as it invests worthy competitors like Clearwire promises to be. Google has gone as far as to team up with AT&T and Verizon’s flagging archrivals—Comcast, Time Warner, Sprint—in order to ensure that much needed third pipe and meaningful competition in the marketplace.

Luckily, Google’s own goals fall in line with what benefits the citizenry, and against what benefits market-and-government-controlling incumbents, the most. Verizon’s pretty steamed at Google lately, first for successfully strong-arming the FCC into openness requirements on the 700 MHz spectrum, then for playing an active role in jacking up the price of spectrum, and even more recently for daring to admonish the FCC to make sure Verizon follows the openness rules the company once sued to have removed.

"It’s really no surprise that despite not winning spectrum, [Google] continue to try to change the rules and further their own business interests through the regulatory process," writes Jim Gerace on the Verizon Public Policy Blog, referring to Google’s recent filing with the FCC. "We expect to file at the Federal Communications Commission within the next several days on this matter."

Much of it comes down to credibility, though. While incumbents deny any type of market failure in the broadband or wireless space, what was once touted as a viable third option and answer to the telco/cable duopoly by the telco/cable duopoly itself and the FCC, broadband over power lines, is more or less officially dead with fewer than 5,000 subscribers and falling. The FCC, led by colossal regulatory flop Kevin Martin, were once very certain BPL would provide the third pipe, all the while ignoring radio interference troubles, reluctance of utility companies, and general (crippling) obscurity.

At the end of the day, though Google has its own motives for the moves it makes, when trying to decide whether Google is right to step on giant toes or if the toes hadn’t crossed any lines to begin with, the question of credibility becomes an important one. Microsoft doesn’t have it, neither do incumbent providers, and most certainly neither does the FCC. With that in mind, Google as a kind of corporate police force doesn’t sound so bad. 
 

Google As Corporate Cop Creates Enemies
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