Google Wants in to Spectrum Auction

Google has said that it will commit to spending at least $4.6 billion in the upcoming 700MHz wireless auction if the FCC commits to greater competition and consumer choice as a requirement for using the spectrum.

Television broadcasters will vacate the frequencies in early 2009 when the switch from analog to digital television takes place. It is considered highly valuable spectrum as the characteristics of the frequencies allow signals to travel at long distances.

Many public interest groups have promoted the auction as a way to bring more competition into the wireless sector. Thus many have urged the FCC to adopt an "open" license scheme.

Google specifically is pushing for four conditions: open applications, open devices, open services, and open networks. The first two allow a consumer to use any application or device over a wireless network, while the last two allow third parties to also benefit from the spectrum.

"In short, when Americans can use the software and handsets of their choice, over open and competitive networks, they win," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in a new letter to the FCC on Friday.

The FCC has agreed to at least two of the terms, but not the open services requirement, which allows resellers to acquire access to spectrum on a wholesale basis. Google says that without this requirement, it will not bid.

Telecom giants are not too pleased with Google's proposal. When it was first introduced earlier this month, AT&T responded to the plan by calling it "fatally at odds with the basic purpose of auctioning spectrum."

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