Thursday, September 13, 2007

Consumer choice is always the right answer



As loyal readers of this blog know, earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission took some significant steps to giving consumers more choices when it comes to high-speed wireless Internet access. The FCC set rules for the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction which said that consumers would have the right to download any software they want, and that consumers could use their handsets with whatever wireless network they want.

This was a big step for consumer choice and competition. "FCC airwave auction rules to give consumers more choice," said USA Today. "Consumers will be able to use any cellphone and software they want," wrote the Washington Post.

Apparently, one of the nation's major existing wireless carriers doesn't think consumers deserve more choices.

Earlier this week, Verizon Wireless filed a lawsuit against the FCC's rules that would require the eventual winner of the spectrum offer open devices and applications. They called the rules “arbitrary and capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law.”

The nation's spectrum airwaves are not the birthright of any one company. They are a unique and valuable public resource that belong to all Americans. The FCC's auction rules are designed to allow U.S. consumers -- for the first time -- to use their handsets with any network they desire, and download and use the lawful software applications of their choice.

It's regrettable that Verizon has decided to use the court system to try to prevent consumers from having any choice of innovative services. Once again, it is American consumers who lose from these tactics.

34 comments:

jph said...

I see Verizon is unhappy with your lobbying efforts and has chosen to sue to block them.

uknow said...

I'm very disappointed w/r/t Verizon's stance on this subject. It's bad enough that we, as a country, pay more than most countries for wireless.

That being said, I'm very happy to see that Google is still keeping their stance: Consumers deserve more choices.

Get em Google!

Orion

ylon said...

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AMD FanBoi said...

Those who can, do.
Those who can't, sue.

Satish said...

I am glad Google is willing to fight AT$T and the likes. I don't care even if Google does it for it's own benefit because I am also being benefited as a consumer. I curse myself for selling my soul and going with AT&T for IPhone. I am a AT&T slave for the next two years. I wish Google and Apple could come together and bid for the new spectrum. When that happens I would be more than happy to break my contract with AT&T

jdawg said...

Veriaon is THE LAST company that I would choose to switch to in the near future when I choose a new mobile carrier. Why? They are the number 1 company known to cripple every device that they sell. The future is open, those against it deserve to disappear.

Can we start thinking about the true future of communications instead of profits?

Bye, bye Verizon (if there is any justice and they do not change).

jdawg said...

Satish, why are you cursing AT&T when Verizon is the company that filed the suit?

Jason said...

As if I would have even considered them as a potential service provider to begin with, they just dropped even lower down in my rankings.

Darnell Clayton said...

Are you for real? What the heck is Verizon doing?

And to think I wanted to sign up with them for wireless internet in the future (before I found out about Google's 700 MHz spectrum bid).

Looks like I'll be taking Verizon off of my list in the future...

Note to Google: Are you the only ones bidding on this? Can other companies throw their weight in? (like eBay, Microsoft, Apple, etc.)

xeno said...

I am changing wireless carriers because of this.

John D Giotta said...

I think that any court in the land can take a look at the Ma Bell incident and see that without open access monopolies emerge.

confused said...

Looks like somebody ticked Sir Charge off.
No not google, its the people. How dare they dream of using new and innovative devices/applications on public spectrum. Its not 'public' spectrum ok! Stop saying that!
What next? Better or cheaper service? No early termination fee? People dream too much these days!

So said...

Thank-you to those of you at Google who are fighting for the less powerful. We are extremely grateful.

Syd said...

Does anyone else remember when companies used to care about their public image? The arrogance nowadays...

Chris said...

Can consumers please choose NOT to have Google desktop preloaded on some workstations. It slows them down, takes up valuable resources, and desktop space.

Chris said...

Oh yes, I am thankful too for taking up for the little people too, Google.

Brad Jackson said...

Did I miss a point somewhere? If this spectrum is up for auction, then presumably the winner becomes the OWNER of that spectrum. If ownership doesn't confer exclusive rights to it, what the heck is the point of paying for it? Analagous to paying for a car at an auction, then being told by the seller that you have to leave the keys in the car at all times, just in case anyone else feels like going for a drive...

Chris said...

@ Brad. It's not the same. If someone buys a car at auction, you are free to buy another car from a different maker and drive it. Not so with wireless spectrum. Cars are not public utilities, or for the public benefit. The owner of the spectrum would have complete and total control over it. No one else could operate in that frequency space. So in that way it is anti-competitive. That's why the rule is there to guarantee access to the spectrum regardless of who actually owns it.

noah said...

Perhaps this is why verizon's stock is trading at $45 and google's stock is trading at $500+

...It might sound strange, but maybe google is one of those "customer/consumer-friendly" companies?

Rick Thomas said...

@brad - Real estate is sold all the time with covenants and zoning regulations - restrictions on use - which insure the land is used in accord with community values.

curious_one said...

Before google express their support for public interest, I just wonder how much google cares about public's privacy. They collect all the data to figure what are consumers preferences, trend etc. I think Google is also monopolistic company. Why google does not allow to remove google cookies from machines ?? I think this is sheer hypocrisy in name of doing good for public. All corporates are alike, be it google or verizon.

manikanden said...

@Brad
I am afraid owning a car (private property) is not analogous to owning a specturm (public use). Auction winning of a spectrum should only represent an "operating license" on that band, and the owner can conduct legal business in that band. For example, Verizon can install a broadband router/access-point operating in that frequency band and can charge the consumers for using that internet service, since they are allowed to do business in that band. Just like a guy locks his car, Verizon can have all sorts of restricted access to its router and router alone. But locking the entire specturm is analogous to that car guy (imagine a car-rental company) buying couple of important US-highways that connects major cities and does not allow any other cars to use it!
Imagine a case where you have to take crazy alternate routes just because a guy is not allowing access to a highway. Even if the law permits it, it is degrading to the quality of human life. There is a objective difference between "conducting business in" and "owning" a public property, and Verizon, I think, got it wrong. I am not supporting Google, but in this case, they are right in my view.

Rob said...

While I'm appreciative of Google's efforts to take this pro-consumer stance, it seems that no one is addressing the key technical flaw to this arguement. As you know, in the US we have carriers running networks with a variety of incompatible technologies (GSM, CDMA, iDen, WiMax, etc.) and on various proprietary freqency bands (700, 800, 900, 1200, 1900 MHz, etc.). The technical impact of this to consumers is, for example, a GSM iPhone on AT&T's network, even if fully unlocked, will never work on Verizon's CDMA network, even if both Verizon and the FCC agree to allow any device on to any network. While there are "world phone" devices available that work across several technologies and frequencies, they represent a tiny percentage of US consumers handsets. How does google address this issue?

manikanden said...

@Rob
Yes you are correct that the communications platform is currently diverse, and that there are few integrated phones.
But, allowing open access is the first step towards creating a scenario where a device works across a range of networks.
The concept of cognitive radios, where all sorts of modulation and coding is done in the software, might take the center stage. A single hardware, and the users can just download a software for operating in a standard.
This would give the phone manufacturers the flexibility to pair up with any service providers at any time, which in turn will enable constructive competition, which the fundamental point anyway.

Apoorv said...

Whole concept of open access has been diluted without the wholesale requirement. And now Verizon wants to push it further so that they can control the open devices too.

I think a “neo-com” company should win one of the C-block licenses and show the world how a real open wireless system can be run. This can lead to the biggest innovation after internet.

Sugar Land 2K said...

I agree with Google and the FCC on this one! The goal of the new 700Mhz was to increase commuations within Public Service (Fire/Police, etc.) and to insure communications for public good. It is not all about the $$$$. Open use/Open Source rules.

Rory said...

noah... Google is clearly a more consumer friendly company than Verizon but the stock price of +$550 versus +$40 is meaningless when Google has only 312 million shares outstanding while Verizon has 2.9 billion shares outstanding

Bernard said...

I'm curious to learn about Google's business case re. ROI on $4.6B using an open platform... Is it based on advertisement? If so, then Quality of Service becomes secondary (as it is nowadays with the Internet and VoIP). Then you will miss the "It's the network"...

Oh by the way "noah", the price of the stock doesn't mean anything if you don't have the starting price and number of outstanding shares (Finance 101).

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theblue_boy said...

Well, if you want an "freedom"-open-company, why don't you switch to cricket? or metroPC or any of these prepaid companies where you can use any phone you want? and even "unlimited" (dropped calls) minutes. (without any warranty unlike Verizon's 1 year In-store replacement policy).

It turns out that just the fact of setting a phone number cost 200 dollars, just for the setup. Then Verizon discounts 300 dollar phones to 0 or cheap. They give you unlimited nights and weekends and mobile to mobile, and no roaming or long distance charges, the best coverage, reception, 24-hour customer service, the best trained folks at the stores, and you still complain?.

In Mexico a basic 2 year contract, for 110 anytime minutes (no text or data included), cost 40 dollars a month, and you don't get mobile to mobile, or free long distance. or even nights and weekends. A basic Motorola RAZR costs at least 220 dollars even with a contract. Yes its very lame, but my point is: do you really think americans pay too much for wireless??. think again. Verizon Wireless really care about its customers... but what's wrong to want to get money out of it? Don't they deserve it for all you're getting?

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