Google Asks FCC to Stand Tall vs. Verizon

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2007-10-04 Print this article Print


An attorney for Google said the company has sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to stand fast against Verizon. The phone carrier is suing the regulatory body because it disagrees with the FCC's rules calling for an open network for all devices and software for the 700MHz spectrum auction.

The open network would allow any legal device to operate on any wireless network and any consumer to use any software applications, content or services they desire. The idea is to give consumers more choices and to enable companies not in the telecommunications market, such as Google, to run a wireless network and offer software for mobile devices.

Verizon and other phone providers don't like this much because it brings more avenues of competition to their carrier rivalries, which have arguably become tame and easy to negotiate with the passage of time.

In a post on the search vendor's public policy blog, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington media and telecom counsel, said Verizon is arguing that the requirements for open devices and open applications should not apply to a licensee's own devices that use this block of 700MHz spectrum.

Whitt noted this position runs counter to the FCC's new rules that actually say that licensees "shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice" and that the "handset locking prohibited rule" states "no licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers."

Whitt makes the case that Verizon is defying the FCC, but that's Verizon's point: It's opposing the FCC's new rules because it doesn't want to open up its devices to a wild west of software and services.  

If the phone carrier can't control what devices and software is used on its network, what can it control? Where is the power? This is not an easy thing to give up if you're accustomed to doing things a certain way. Hence the lawsuit against the FCC; if Verizon goes down, it's going to go down kicking and screaming.

Here's another nugget from Whitt: "Needless to say, any attempt to change the reading of this rules language would seriously undermine the promise of consumers seeking more choices of wireless providers and services."

I appreciate the way Whitt positioned Verizon's argument, coloring the company's actions as impinging on consumers' rights, and therefore casting Verizon as a villain in this ongoing 700MHz spectrum saga.

"We think the Internet offers the optimal model for what best serves the interests of all consumers. To that end, we hope the FCC sticks to its guns as it tries to introduce the open ethos of the 'Net to a small segment of the closed wireless world," Whitt said.

Well played.
For Google's part, Whitt said the company is still pondering whether and how to participate in the January auction, noting that if it does bid for and win spectrum (the company has pledged a minimum of $4.6 billion) it will offer consumers their "choice of devices and applications they want to use on our network."

Google itself sounds like a carrier here, and it doesn't even have a lick of spectrum yet. I expect that to change, and after January it should get real interesting because I think we will begin to hear more about this elusive Google phone we've been hearing and writing about, not to mention some mobile applications derived from Google's acquisitions and alleged, in-house mobile operating system development. |

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