Google CEO Eric Schmidt has sent a letter to the FCC with a $4.6 billion bid for the upcoming 700MHz wireless spectrum – but only if the FCC adopts four proposals from the search engine.
Google’s offering to submit the FCC’s minimum bid, conditional on all four of the following platforms being adopted:
- Open applications: consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
- Open devices: consumers should be able to utilize their handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
- Open services: third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
- Open networks: third parties (like Internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at any technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network
In the U.S., wireless spectrum for mobile phones and data is controlled by a small group of companies, leaving consumers with very few service providers from which to choose. With that in mind, last week, as the federal government prepares for what is arguably its most significant auction of wireless spectrum in history, we urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules to make sure that regardless of who wins the spectrum at auction, consumers’ interests are the top priority.
Google says they’re “putting consumers’ interests first” by pushing the FCC to adopt policies that would help provide easier access to mobile content, without being tied to a specific network or forced to pay higher fees for “add-ons.” While I’m sure many consumers will hope Google’s bid either wins or forces the FCC to adopt their suggestions – I for one would be glad to have the GPS activated on my Verizon-crippled Blackberry – the incumbent networks are quick to implement their own spin. AT&T has already issued its own response:
Not satisfied with a compromise proposal from Chairman Martin that meets most of its conditions, Google has now delivered an all or nothing ultimatum to the U.S. Government, insisting that every single one of their conditions ?must? be met or they will not participate in the spectrum auction. Google is demanding the Government stack the deck in its favor, limit competing bids, and effectively force wireless carriers to alter their business models to Google?s liking. We would repeat that Google should put up or shut up? they can bid and enter the wireless market with any business model they prefer, then let consumers decide which model they like best.
It seems net neutrality has found a new battlefield. While I applaud Google’s efforts to put consumer’s first, keep in mind, you don’t bid $4.6 billion for something that doesn’t also benefit your business. If Google succeeds - either in its bid or the adoption of its recommendations – it’s going to make it a lot easier for their services to reach your mobile phone. Not everything Google does is 100% charitable.