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7/31/2007
10:01 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Google Almost Gets What It Wants From The FCC

The FCC set the ground rules today for the upcoming 700-MHz auction. While Google didn't get everything it asked for -- the FCC made progress toward opening up spectrum but stopped short of real open network access -- it came pretty close.

The FCC set the ground rules today for the upcoming 700-MHz auction. While Google didn't get everything it asked for -- the FCC made progress toward opening up spectrum but stopped short of real open network access -- it came pretty close.Last week Google hinted that it would only participate in the 700-MHz auction if the FCC supported full open access. But now, according to FierceWireless, Google might still buy spectrum even after today's announcement:

Following today's FCC meeting, Google's senior counsel Richard Witt made it clear Google has not decided to sit this auction out. Witt notes that the company never said it would not bid if its four openness rules were not adopted for the C Block of the spectrum auction. Google just said that it would bid if they were! Witt, however, cautioned that the company needs to review the details of the FCC's plan once they come out in full during the course of the next few weeks before the company can make any definitive decisions.

Witt also reminded everyone that the FCC only met two of its conditions:

Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, said in a news conference immediately following the FCC meeting that there were some "real benefits" in the new rules, but he noted that only two its conditions were met by the FCC. He said the search engine firm needs "time to study" the rules when they are published before it will make a decision on whether it will bid $4.6 billion in the auction.

So will Google buy some spectrum or not?

Personally, I think this is a sign that Google will participate in the auction. Google wants more than just open access for this band of spectrum, though. Google wants to reshape the mobile Web.

Now, I don't think Google wants to be a carrier. But I do think Google wants carriers to change the way they offer mobile Internet access. Google wants open access on as many devices as possible. And if the company has to spend tons of money on spectrum to make the mobile Web more open, then so be it. If anyone has the cash to do this, it's Google.

I also think Google may try to use any spectrum it acquires as a leverage point with carriers. Google could conceivably buy spectrum and then lease it other carriers, but only on Google's terms. If the established carriers refuse, Google could lease the spectrum to upstart carriers, and use the new carriers to force the established companies to open up the mobile Web.

What do you think? Will Google use the FCC's ruling as a way to buy control of the U.S. mobile market? And if Google buys spectrum, will it really change the U.S. market?

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