Google Will ‘Probably’ Bid On Wireless Spectrum
Google will "probably" bid in the FCC’s 700 MHz spectrum auction set to take place in 2008, CEO Eric Schmidt told attendees at a Colorado summit with telecommunications industry representatives heavily in attendance.
GigaOm’s Paul Kaputska reports that Schmidt equated networks to roads and electricity, part of the national infrastructure that must be handled with extreme caution. He said that open networks which allow users access with the device of their choice was a key outcome of the spectrum auction. Ensuring open networks and Net Neutrality ensures competition and consumer choice.
Earlier in the summer, Google committed to bid $4.6 billion for a slice of the 700 MHz spectrum, formerly used for television broadcasts and ideal for wireless broadband, only if the FCC place four specific requirements on the spectrum’s use:
Allow users to attach any device
Allow any applications that don’t harm the network
Resell spectrum on a wholesale basis
Allow third parties to connect anywhere in the licensee’s network
Over staunch opposition from incumbent telecommunications giants like AT&T and Verizon, who accused Google of trying to rig the auction in its favor, the FCC agreed to two of the conditions – permission to attach and permission to download applications – but only if the reserve price for the auction was met.
This left wireless Net Neutrality, competition, and open network fans a bit troubled, as it was now unclear if Google would hold to its white-knight promises if all four conditions were not met. But given Schmidt’s latest statements, the four demands may have overbid to counter expected low-balling protests from incumbents (who didn’t want any such requirements). Google "got the spirit" of what they wanted, anyway, he said.
The debate over the spectrum doesn’t stop at the auction, though. Google joins Microsoft and several other technology companies in trying to convince the FCC to open up spectrum "white spaces," which previously acted as buffers to prevent signal interference. Opening those white spaces up, they argue, could pave the way for a national wireless network as well.
The FCC has consistently argued that the buffer zones are necessary to prevent signal bleeding, and wasn’t swayed when Microsoft presented a device for testing that would arguably prevent it. Thought the FCC said it was a "thorough" test of the device and that it failed, Microsoft shot back that the FCC failed to test the back-up device that was provided.
Technology companies, then, still have a battle on their hands when dealing with incumbents and the FCC, neither of which seem keen on allowing new competitors into the wireless space.