June 14, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Google lobbies for 'open' wireless networks

Google and its allies may have lost key Capitol Hill votes on Net neutrality laws last year, but now they're mounting a counterattack: a lobbying effort to extend similar rules to forthcoming wireless broadband networks.

As part of a congressionally mandated switchover to digital television broadcasts, the federal government is preparing to auction off a generous chunk of the 700MHz broadcast TV band by early next year. Wireless companies are eager to bid on it because its signals can travel farther and easily penetrate walls--qualities that lend themselves to widespread, wireless broadband networks.

But a key question, set to be discussed at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday morning, is whether open access rules--a close cousin of last year's legislative tussles over Net neutrality--should be levied on at least some of the companies that win licenses through the auction. In charge of deciding that point is the Federal Communications Commission, which is still finalizing its rules for the proceeding.

That has led to a renewal of old alliances. On one side are last year's Net neutrality proponents, including liberal advocacy groups, wireless technologists and companies like Google, which say that federal regulators must step in and impose "open access" rules. Otherwise, they claim, only a few powerful companies will control this prized chunk of spectrum.

On the other side are the telecommunications giants such as AT&T that blocked extensive Net neutrality rules in the House of Representatives and the Senate last year--and are invoking the same free-market arguments a second time. An AT&T filing with the FCC, for instance, says one Google proposal should be rejected because the market will determine how spectrum should be used.

Advocates affiliated with the pro-Net neutrality Save the Internet lobby group wrote in a recent letter to the FCC: "If the FCC simply gives the highest bidder exclusive rights over the new airwaves, phone and cable companies could become permanent gatekeepers of the airwaves--continuing their record of keeping new competition and innovation out of the marketplace."

Google has also been pressing the FCC to reserve a portion of that spectrum (the 722-728MHz band) to be used primarily or exclusively for broadband communications. Final comments on that proposal were due on Wednesday. (Google did not answer all questions posed by CNET News.com about its auction stance on Wednesday, but a representative did send a statement saying, "the FCC should be adopting flexible rules that encourage competitive entry by new and innovative broadband companies.")

Participants in the broader open access effort include the advocacy groups Public Knowledge, MoveOn.org and the Media Access Project, along with Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig. More than 250,000 people submitted comments to the FCC calling for an "open, accessible and affordable" Internet, the group says.

Also in the open access camp is Frontline Wireless, a start-up backed by major Silicon Valley venture capitalists that has proposed a controversial plan to build a public safety network on those airwaves.

Old alliances reunite
Although their individual positions differ on some points, they all generally want the FCC to guarantee that at least a portion of the new spectrum is made available at "fair-market" wholesale prices to anyone who wants to use it. They also want regulators to require that users have the freedom to connect the devices of their choosing to the network, so long as they abide by a "do no harm" mantra.

"This would be a way of getting people who might not be able to afford to bid on spectrum to get into the game," said Art Brodsky, a spokesman for Public Knowledge.

It would also prevent more powerful companies from "warehousing" valuable unused spectrum that could be used by competitors to provide additional services, his group and its allies have argued.

Some groups would like to take the open access idea even further. A group of 15 wireless industry entrepreneurs led by Virgin Mobile USA co-founder Amol Sarva is asking the FCC to set aside one sixth of commercial spectrum as an open "sandbox," where smaller entrepreneurs and inventors can play with new ideas without having to get permission from one of the "big four" network operators--AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile.

"Having to engage with the Big 4 at each cycle in the process can slow time to market and increase risks and costs for the entrepreneur," the group, Wireless Founders for Innovation Coalition, said in a letter to the FCC (PDF) last week.

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11 comments

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Deregulation just like Enron.. how'd that work out for you?
Same argument from the same greasy-haired, special interest lawyers / lobbyists that we had out of Enron... let the market work! Deregulation is ALWAYS good... even when there can't be competition because your GOVERNMENT auctioned off (makes it sound positively fair, doesn't it? ) a one and only natural resource to the highest bidder, who will now take sole possession of it

Hey you hate special interest politics? Hey you think your government is out of control and only listens to lobbyists from special interest? Hey you think the corporations like that everyone has a voice on the internet.. even ones that work against their interest? Think they're OK with that? Or you think they'll do anything say anything break any law take every risk to make DAMN sure that Net Neutrality is dragged outside and shot in the back of the head...

As far as service goes, are you ahppy about the cool things your cell phone company does on your bill? Or their cool customer service? Or their pricing models or contracts or 2 year service early termination agreements or their coverage or the quality of their phones? How's all that working out for you? How about your cable? Getting value there are you?

That's what happens when you permit duopolies to exist.

Look, the tiered pricing model is just a marketing ploy to drive up the cost decent service and move competition from the provider to the consumer .

How does that work?

Simple, instead of companies competing with each other to win your dollar (which is where value comes from) by providing new, and better services and thus driving the virtuous circle of we call innovation, they create a tiered system where they split service (for no technical reason) into CRAPPY (basic cable) OK (you get it...) GOOD and EXTRA SPECIAL.

This is pure marketing. It doesn't reflect added costs being passed on. This is made possible because only a few companies control the spectrum..

Now comes the part they love. Since there are only two or at best three providers, (ATT COMCAST for cable), they can make YOU compete for the OK and above.. they price it so that only the very rich with a lot of disposable income will buy the EXTRA SPECIAL.

Believe me, there's enough people in that range, not by percentage of population, but by numbers, like 10 million, that they can ask virtually any price before THAT class of people starts saying "uh.. too much"....

And what THAT class of people will pay is what determines the price.

Then there's that big thick juicy piece of steak the industry calls "fools". These are people who give away 60 + dollars a month to watch TV but for whom that money, if it were put away from the time they were 25 to the time they retire, 40 years, would be worth, oh a quarter million or so 60 at 8% for 40 years is $229265.00

Now the cable companies aren't fools, they DO invest that money, from ALL THOSE people and THAT my friends is all for doing nothing except developing a tiered pricing model and providing NO added value ...

The thing is, in other industries, if you want top value, you have to pay more BECAUSE its cost more to create. It's materially better. A Rolls Royce is materially better than a GM. The extra cost you pay is traceable to extra cost you pay is traceable to extra cost involved in the creation. Rolls Royce has market pressures too, because car companies are NOT a duopoly... we don't auction off the one and only ability to make a car the way we auction off the ability to use our airwaves. It's completely different.

Because the one and only spectrum is OURS the Government's .. the sole possession of the US CITIZENS... and there is only ONE such spectrum, we have not just a RIGHT but a DUTY to MAKE SURE that that spectrum remains accessible to all irrespective of personal wealth.

EVERYONE should be able to access the net EQUALLY rich and poor ... these companies can make their money by providing VALUE, not through rate-limiting


Now that the rest of the 320 million people are priced out of anything decent, and they've established an artificially high "ceiling", now they can raise the price of the OK service.

Think it's time for a revolution in this country? Think that we're just about teetering on a neo-fascist regime where the corporation and the well connected dirtbags in Washington, like Powell, are just a little too cozy with corporate interests?


Remember, a CEO and the corporate officers ould give a DAMN about democracy, equality or any other freaking thing. They want their coke their mansion their prostitutes (1000 bucks an hour- can you believe that!!!) they want their private jets ad fine dining experiences and the THRILL of being powerful... and if they destroy this country or turn into into a dictatorship or whatever, who cares?? They got theirs while they were alive and that's ALL that matters to them and that' all that ever will matter to them.

Of course, people like that are called socicopaths, but when it takes the form of a corporation, somehow it's all about the free market and the free market (which in this context is a freaking joke) is a value above all others including the democratic principles that have guided this ation for 250 years... it's a new religion! Globalism.. free markets.. coke n' hos... 3rd world slave labor making the ultra-ic ultra richer....catch the wave people! It's os great when you can live life free of any values and STILL PASS YOURSELF OFF AS A SPOKESMAN FOR PRINCIPLES AND FAIRNESS...


Revolution. It's not just a Beatles song.
Posted by asdf (241 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oh, and after they Enron you
here's what comes next.

Can anyone read what's below and seriously maintain the idea that we're a democracy or a nation of laws anymore? It's a plutocracy.. the control of laws and outcomes by the rich for the rich.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/06/14/bush_shafts_enron_victims.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/06/14/bush_shafts_enron_victims.php</a>

Just make sure you're not
Posted by asdf (241 comments )
Link Flag
Very Well Put
I have nothing to add except do what he says and wake up. It's all being taken away and people still prefer MTV. You want to support the troops? Impeach this president and put his cronies in jail.
Posted by nuckelhedd (70 comments )
Link Flag
"few markets ... innovative"?
"There are few markets in America that are more competitive, vibrant and innovative than wireless," said Joe Farren, a spokesman for CTIA

Then why do we trail Europe and Asia in rolling out 3G networks? As keeps being pointed out in articles about the iPhone, it won't be 3G capable. Most (please note the word most, not all) innovation in the handset industry seems to come from Finland, Japan &#38; Korea, not America.
Not exactly a vibrant and innovative market.
Posted by tm10030 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
16th in the world for speed and access
Well the US is 16th for access and speed and what's more, these same companies have stolen not just the spectrum, but billions of dollars since 1996 promising things they never delivered on, all subsidized by you.

Read it only if your doctor says you can stand the rise in blood pressure sure to follow.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://wistechnology.com/article.php?id=2676" target="_newWindow">http://wistechnology.com/article.php?id=2676</a>


Is YOU retirement money in the hands of some coked-up Wall Street piece of garbage?

"If we do it for a baseball, we should do it for billion dollar companies:

Mandatory random drug testing for corporate CEOs, their officers and their boards."


Our symbol: an empty urine cup, waiting to be filled.

Our slogan: Shut up. Your pants are coming down.
Posted by asdf (241 comments )
Link Flag
free market controlled by 4 companies??
yeah, the wireless industry has *tons* of innovation... if by innovation you mean "stifling competition".

the iPhone is the worst possible example of the free market and innovation: it's only available from AT&#38;T and the WiFi doesn't work until you've registered for their EDGE service. innovation my ass.

only someone as greedy as the telecommunications industry could think that you need near monopoly status to innovate and profit.
Posted by chris__anderson (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google and the Auction
Only Google has the $$$ and the capability to challenge the Cell Co (4) for this spectrum. The spectrum also opens up the last mile to them and allows them to complete their end to end Broadband Distribution Network.
This will be a titanic battle for this spectrum with the CellCO subject to being bypassed by any 3rd party gaining access to the 700Mhz on a nationwide basis-serious threat they cannot ignore.
Also create major problems for Sprint and Clearwire with their investment in the 2.5Ghz spectrum (for WiMAX) which will be left on the sideline when 700Mhz goes live in 2009-2010.
Posted by jacomo (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Make 700 Public. Everybody wins. MIMO and true-mesh make it so.
By making all of 700 MHz public, and requiring all radios (through strict part 15 regs) to be mesh compatible, everyone wins.

manufacturers: think how many part 15 radios you can sell compared to trying to sell to carriers

public safety: every household and carrier radio automatically becomes part of the public safety network. radio prices would be much lower.

carriers: invest in hardware and services, not spectrum. expand into new markets easily. Equal access to every entity.

everyone: bandwidth, universal coverage, the last mile is free. true competition among commercial services everywhere.

In a true-mesh environment, every radio added increases bandwidth.

Much of the technical groundwork has been done for 802.11N.

Just add:

1. Geographic routing, in which the first 64 bits of an IPV6-like address space is latitude and longitude

2. Mandatory beam forming, omni antennas parmitted on mobile devices only.

3. Mandatory true-mesh participation.

4. Cascade transmission (think: bittorrent on steroids)

The cost savings to communities for public safety buildout, and the tax revenues from profits by radio manufacturers and service providers will far exceed the short term cash from selling this public resource.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get it right. 700 MHz can be the gateway to a broadband connected society, don't sell it to greedy carriers who want to bar competition.
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Excellent proposal !!!
You should forward your proposal to Chairman Kevin Martin of the FCC.

Kevin.Martin@fcc.gov
KJMWEB@fcc.gov
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.fcc.gov/commissioners/martin/" target="_newWindow">http://www.fcc.gov/commissioners/martin/</a>
Posted by cbazza (90 comments )
Link Flag
The Plain Truth about Free Markets
What is a free market? A free market is any "means" by which all businesses and customers have equal access to each other. That "means" can be physically on the ground in the form of public thoroughfares, with customers being able to get to any business they want to shop at and businesses being able to deliver product to any customer. No private business controls this means of physical access between customers and businesses. Customers and businesses need to have a similar environment of equal access to each other over the information highway. No private business, given the responsibility of building and maintaining any means of access, physical or virtual, should be allowed to be a gatekeeper, deciding who can and cannot have access to a customer or business.
Posted by SpiritMatter (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who is in whos pocket?
It all boils down to the highest bidder and you can bet that the big 4 is at the front of the line. The FCC chairman that once worked as the AT &#38; T CEO might have a couple ideas of his own but I wouldn't count on them being stringless.

Lets face it, the technology exists today for every individual to have their own access point to the internet with complete control over their wireless connectivity. This airwave was once used for free access to news and media content and now is being auctioned to monopolies like AT&#38;T. Our country is selling itself to the companies that we once protected eachother from. If these airwaves were opened to the general public, each person could have their own free wireless access to the internet, which is something google has already been working to put in place in areas like SF, Mountain View, and Palo Alto (California).

Remember the old 80s movies when people in the future were talking with video over their cell phones? You know why this doesn't exist today, even though the technology does? Take one guess: the big 4 cap their features and price it so far out of range that the average consumers can't afford it.

Come on U.S.A., the consumers deserve a break.
Posted by Kosher0 (25 comments )
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