Of Course We Could Just Blame the FCC for Our Refusal to Bid and Still Come Out Looking Like Heroes
Now that the Federal Communications Commission has voted to adopt only two of the ” ‘Four Opens’ of Successful Open Access,” the question on many minds is “Will Google bid in the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction?”
In his July 20 letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote, “should the Commission expressly adopt the four license conditions requested in our July 9 letter–with specific, enforceable and enduring rules–Google intends to commit a minimum of $4.6 billion to bidding in the upcoming auction.”
Are two out of four openness conditions enough for Google to make good on its pledge anyway? Because they’re good conditions: 1. Open applications, the right of consumers to download and utilize any software applications or content they desire; and 2. Open devices, the right of consumers to utilize their handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer.
Certainly, it would have been nice to see the FCC adopt open services and open networks as well, but with incumbent telcos like Verizon and AT&T so vehemently opposed, it was probably never going to happen.
And Google likely knew this all along. So we return to the original question: Will Google bid in the spectrum auction? It just might, at least according to Chris Sacca, head of special initiatives at Google. Consider his comments during a recent interview with News.com:
Q: Google has recently said it would bid on the 700MHz spectrum only if the FCC guarantees certain open-access principles, including open access for companies wanting to buy wireless capacity wholesale. Does this mean that Google won’t bid on spectrum if the rules aren’t adopted?
Sacca: To be clear, what we said was not exactly that. What we said was that there had been some concerns that somehow imposing these openness principles on the spectrum might diminish its value at auction. And we wanted to reassure the FCC that embracing a path of full openness in the interest of users and the interest of consumers would not reduce the total revenue of the auction. And we wanted to put our money where our mouth is, and we are putting our money where our principles are. So we committed to spending a minimum of $4.6 billion in the auction, if they adopted all four principles.
Q: So it’s not out of the question that Google would participate in the auction, even if the FCC doesn’t adopt all four principles?
Sacca: We are deeply committed to changing this industry for the benefit of end users.”
There’s a little bit of the ol’ Google two-step there at the end, but Sacca does seem to suggest that it’s still possible that the company might bid in the auction.