Google Paints a Them and Us Scenario

WASHINGTON--It's almost as if Larry Page had an enemies list entered into the BlackBerry he frequently checked during his May 22 We Love Google session with the New America Foundation. Bad guys: Microsoft and the National Association of Broadcasters. Good guys: Google, of course.

The billionaire Google co-founder was making his first Washington appearance to promote the use of unlicensed devices in the interference zones (white spaces) between broadcast channels and to kick any Microsoft-Yahoo deal as hard as he could. The New America Foundation was the perfect launching pad.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman and CEO, is scheduled to become the think tank's chairman before the end of the year. Michael Calabrese, the organization's vice president and director of its Wireless Future Program and the morning's moderator, backstrokes in the white spaces Kool-Aid.

Broadcasters, Page told the fawning audience, are ignoring proven engineering when it comes to white spaces by creating a self-serving "fiction" about interference. According to Page, there is no "technical reason at all" for opposing the use of white spaces. Google, good; NAB, bad.

The testing at the FCC, however, is so far spotty, with two black box devices having faltered in the clutch. Even Page admits the prototypes "didn't quite work like expected."

"Given the numerous device failures that have resulted during FCC testing, it seems a little disingenuous for Mr. Page to simply dismiss the interference concerns that have been raised," NAB Vice President Dennis Wharton said in a statement issued shortly after Page's New America appearance.

As for a Microsoft-Yahoo deal, Page said it was a big risk to the market. "If Yahoo and Microsoft were to merge, they'd have something like 90 percent of all the communications market," he said. Page pointed out that Microsoft has a "history of doing bad stuff."

He has no such worries about combining the enormous online advertising share held by Google with Yahoo.

"Obviously, we do have a large advertising share and so on, but we also feel like there are ways in which to structure a deal with Yahoo that would be reasonable from that standpoint," Page said. Google, good; Microsoft, bad.

Google has every reason to believe this sort of lobbying works in Washington. Last summer, Google led the charge to persuade the FCC to change its 700MHz auction rules from a winner-take-all, high-bidder-wins spectrum grab to an auction with open access requirements.

It remains to be seen if this current campaign against Microsoft and the NAB will be as successful.