But if You Opened the Spectrum It Would Be Like the Richer Companies Had No Advantage at All …
Come fall, Google’s lobbying and legislative operations in the nation’s capital will move from Pennsylvania Avenue to quarters much closer to the traditional K Street corridor of lobbying outfits. Not that they really need to–their presence is being felt in a big way even at a distance. To wit, the draft rules for an upcoming auction of wireless radio spectrum currently being circulated by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, which could hand Google its first significant victory in a battle to wrest some control over wireless broadband communications from incumbent telecoms.
It seems Martin is keen on the idea of setting aside some of the auction spectrum for an open wireless platform, something Google’s been pushing for–hard–inside the Beltway. “Whoever wins this spectrum has to provide … truly open broadband network–one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers,” Martin told USA Today. In practice, he said, “You can use any wireless device and download any mobile broadband application, with no restrictions.”
As you might imagine, Google was more than a little bit pleased to learn that Martin’s considering setting aside a portion of the available spectrum for an “open” network. “There is now potentially positive news coming out of the FCC,” Richard Whitt, Google’s Washington telecom and media counsel, wrote in a post to the company’s policy blog. “Chairman Kevin Martin apparently is about to circulate proposed auction rules to his fellow commissioners, and we’re hearing through the proverbial grapevine that his proposal includes several of the open-platform conditions we have recommended. If these reports are accurate, we are most encouraged by this favorable development. Obviously we’ll need to see the fine print, but such a proposal would represent a step forward for new, innovative entrants to the broadband market.”
It may well do just that–assuming it’s not strangled in the crib by incumbent telecom carriers first. Which is a distinct possibility given their clout in Washington. “FCC Chairman Martin’s net-neutrality regulation conditions amount to a multibillion corporate-welfare subsidy grant to Google, because the proposed rules apparently are specifically rigged to benefit Google’s Open Internet Coalition,” said Scott Cleland, chairman of Net Competition, a group that represents the telecommunications and cable industries. “If Google or any market player wanted to offer net neutrality/open access over this prime 700 MHz spectrum, Google could compete in the free-market auction, bid the most and offer a net neutrality/open access service. … It is outrageous that the FCC chairman fell for Google’s poverty plea for a de facto auction subsidy and price break that will shortchange the American taxpayer the billions of dollars that a free and open competitive auction would raise.”