Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Signs of real progress at the FCC



The Federal Communications Commission made real, if incomplete, progress for consumers this afternoon, as it set the rules for an upcoming auction of the publicly owned spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

None of us like how the current system locks you into wireless service plans that limit the kind of phone or PDA you can use, prevent you from downloading and using the software of your choice, and charge you hefty termination fees if you try to get out. And it's hard to ignore how the existing wireless carriers talk a good game about the virtues of the free market, but prefer to keep us stuck in their closed market. Today the FCC took some concrete steps on the road to bringing greater choice and competition to all Americans.

In essence, the FCC embraced two of the four openness conditions that we suggested several weeks ago: (1) open applications, the right of consumers to download and utilize any software applications or content they desire; and (2) open devices, the right of consumers to utilize their handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer. We understand that the Commission also may have added real teeth to these two requirements, by plugging some of the more obvious loopholes and giving consumers a tangible remedy for any carrier violations.

Just two months ago, the notion that the FCC would take such a big step forward to give consumers meaningful choice through this auction seemed unlikely at best. Today -- thanks in no small part to broad public support for greater competition -- the FCC has embraced important principles of openness, and endorsed the unfettered workings of the free market for software applications and communications devices. Moreover, over the last few weeks several leading wireless carriers have reversed course and for the first time acknowledged our call for more open platforms in wireless networks. By any measure, that's real progress.

By the same token, it would have a more complete victory for consumers had the FCC adopted all four of the license conditions that we advocated, in order to pave the way for the real "third pipe" broadband competition that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has been touting. For our part, we will need time to carefully study the actual text of the FCC's rules, due out in a few weeks, before we can make any definitive decisions about our possible participation in the auction.

In the meantime, we thank Chairman Martin for his leadership, and his compelling insight that American consumers deserve better in the wireless and broadband worlds. We've also had the pleasure of working on this issue with a broad cross-section of public interest groups that understand the need to foster more choices and competition in the wireless and broadband worlds.

18 comments:

CJ said...

Because the FCC chose to support only two of your four proposed openness conditions, I hope you win the auction and implement all four. Long live Google! :-)

emilnstacy said...

The "more open" ruling only applies to the 12 REAG licenses and not the +900 lesser populated rural licenses. I think you'll need to have a common air interface for full open access.

Good Luck

Dave said...

I'm incredibly enthusiastic about this announcement, but the principles it rejected seem in accordance with their current practices with internet regulation. In effect, they've rejected the common carriage requirements struck down after the Brand X decision. I look forward to reading the full terms of the auction, but it seems like the FCC wants the third pipe to be exactly as flawed as all the others.

worth said...

Of the 4 "Google Wish List" items in the open letter to the neFarious Communications Cartel (just made that up myself!), where would the 2 that were granted today have been ranked? 1 and 2 would be my guess. And I wonder how this will affect any future "exclusive arrangements" between handset makers like Apple and service providers like the Death Star.

Drywall said...

It's a shame Martin's "Open Access Lite: devices only" merely applies to a small swath of the spectrum being auctioned. I think you're putting a better face on it than it deserves.

The real question: now that bidding's anonymous, will Google participate despite the FCC's failure to deliver on all four conditions?

Peter said...

Hopefully Google puts their money where their mouth is and bids on the spectrum. If they win, they can implement whatever open access conditions they want with it... Lets go Google!

Wil said...

I think it be wise to buy up the spectrum and then lease it out to the telcos while letting every one else have it for free! ;)

I kid but seriously it would be wise to create a wireless network where your in the business of maintaining and updating the hardware and letting every one else create the services and client hardware. Kind of the way the telco's have had to handle the dial up ISPs only willingly.

Maybe make it a spinoff slash start up with Google VP funding but make it exuberantly clear that no one company of any kind including Google will EVER have any advantage over any other company in regards to the network.

Thats always been a dream of mine, to start a company that offers wireless data and basically sell it to any one at flat rates based on few different speed models. Then let other companies buy bandwidth in bulk and let them offer any service with no fear of cannibalization from the wireless company.

It would be like an anywhere, anytime 24/7 wireless internet connection that would basically allow any type of data connection without the fear of the mother ship taking away our privileges such as VOIP and chat.

So yea, Google if your interested I'll send you my resume! I've worked in the internet business for a long time and have always wanted an opportunity to work as a philanthropist as well!

mcbride said...

The big wins for small business:

1) anonymous bidding, 2) open access, and 3) CMA markets.

Tom said...

Thanks Google for leading the drive to push the FCC towards the right direction!

bill said...

Is it my imagination or is Google taking over the world?

Harold said...

While I agree with the open access idea, I don't think spectrum should be "sold," but instead leased, as I wrote in "Spectrum For Sale Or Rent" at http://www.ijclp.org/5_2000/ijclp_webdoc_6_5_2000.html

Harold

Praveen Gupta said...

Google's commitment to "open Service" for wireless is important. Without "open Service", service providers are free to block, kill or throttle any traffic that they want to kill. Without open-service, true internet (as we get on wired internet) will not be available on wireless.

Andrew said...

It says four steps but there are only 2 labeled points?!?! Is the author just as clueless and confused as wireless users are looking at their bill? AW

John said...

If anyone must take over the world, I say we give it to Google. They're techies, not businessmen like ATT and Verizon! I'll be the first to sign up for Google or Google-leased wireless! I heard they hired game strategists for this deal, so maybe everything's still going according to plan. Good luck, Google!

Dale Sundstrom said...

It's clear that the FCC should support the most open access possible, and their decision not to support more open access provisions is inappropriate. The lack of open access will stifle choice, competition, innovation and growth.

Wireless broadband is built upon the public airwaves. Full open access is appropriate for new airwave allocations because there is no public benefit from allowing exclusive or restrictive uses; while open access offers great benefits. These benefits could include increased business activity and tax revenue. A recent Business Week article explains how it has sparked great innovation and competition in France.

Restrictive uses might increase the perceived value of the licenses to incumbent providers, but is a great disservice to the public.

Paul said...

Google, bid in the action! 2 out of 4 is better than 0 out of 4. if you win you can implement any openness conditions you want. Besides, those 2 conditions will only be met if they receive a minimum bid of 4.6 billion dollars.

Serge said...

That is great, way to go... but it still makes me angry that a country that boasts being on the cutting edge of tech is so behind the curve when it comes to broadband access and affordability of said access.

Please, oh please, put your money where your mouth is: seriously bid for this, win, and wholesale whatever you don't need for your master ad-selling plan...

As Dale mentionned, France (and the UK for that matter) has leapfrogged many countries in broadband penetration, speed and affordability by ensuring that open services and networks were enforced.

kmb40 said...

Good Luck. Kick Ass Google!