Google's Wireless Plan, Not Quite Clear

The Federal Communications Commission is going to set rules for the upcoming 700 MHz auctions tomorrow, a decision that could potentially alter the wireless landscape. The auction has resulted in a war of the words, with the Google Camp trading barbs with Verizon and AT&T. Cisco has weighed in with its two cents. Each side is making good arguments, though none of them impressive enough, at least from an average person’s perspective.

Google wanted the winner of auctions to build a network that not only allowed any device to connect to the network, but also it wanted the network to be open to other third parties including companies like Google. These requirements would make the new broadband wireless network more favorable to companies like Google.

Google even offered to bid at least $4.6 billion for the wireless spectrum if the FCC favored the rules put forward by the search engine giant. Not surprisingly, that drew a lot of criticism from the phone companies and their extended lobbying arms. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin came up with a plan that requires the winner to use frequencies to build networks that allow any device to connect to that network. Phone companies didn’t like that either. Anyway Martin’s proposal was like being “almost married.”

The Washington Post is now reporting that Google may end up bidding for the spectrum regardless of the rules. Google’s bid to get more clout in Washington D.C. is not going so well, and like many tech companies before, it is stepping on too many toes. Whether it ends up getting its way or not, there are many questions Google need to address before they can basically convince me that they are St. Peter.

For instance, does Google become the clearinghouse for the network and who is allowed to connect to the network, and where? Where are the rules that ensure that the network isn’t tilted in Google’s favor? If the company is going to spend shareholder money – $4.6 billion or more – and Wall Street as we know would want to know where is the return on investment? What makes me more skeptical: Google has teamed up with Clearwire, a company not a shining example of open access.

PS: I had sent Google a list of questions earlier, but never heard back from them. I guess, they were too busy coming up with strategy to win against the phone companies.

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