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Schmidt: Google will 'Probably' Bid on Spectrum

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[qi:83] ASPEN, Colo. — Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the search giant will “probably” bid in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auctions, telling an audience here Tuesday that Google “got the spirit of what we were asking” for in the recent rulemaking decision by the FCC.

After reportedly piloting his own twin-engine aircraft to this well-known mountain resort town for an evening keynote speech at this year’s Progress and Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit, Schmidt wrapped his first public comments about the recent spectrum rulemaking into a wide-ranging talk that championed free speech, open networks and the future of communications infrastructure, the latter of which he called “a national issue” that demands immediate attention.

By taking the lead spotlight at the annual PFF event — which is typically attended by the nation’s top communications policymakers, lobbyists and associated influencers — Schmidt cemented his new position as high-tech’s leading commentator on telecom issues. “We need to keep the Internet free and open — if it goes the other way, we’re going to have a serious problem,” Schmidt said to open his remarks. He then said networks are now “at the level of roads and electricity,” building an important infrastructure “more quickly than we’ve ever seen.”

In his prepared talk, Schmidt championed the defense of free speech, universal broadband access, network neutrality principles and government information transparency as four “call to action” items on Google’s to-do list. But his headline-making remarks vis-a-vis the 700 MHz rulemaking all but committed Google to participating in the upcoming auction, ending speculation that the company might sit out the bidding since the FCC didn’t completely agree with all of Google’s rulemaking suggestions that seemed part of its pre-emptive $4.6 billion offer.

Saying the FCC’s rules were “conducive” to the kind of bid Google might make, Schmidt said “probably… is the way to answer,” when asked directly if Google would still participate. The key outcome for Google, he said, is for there to be open networks which users can access with any devices they choose, with competition among providers for services. If that comes to pass, Schmidt said “that’s a pretty good outcome. But it’s important that the choice be possible.”

More on Schmidt’s talk tomorrow.

19 Responses to “Schmidt: Google will 'Probably' Bid on Spectrum”

  1. Kevin Walsh

    Having achieved what it really wanted (force spectrum winners to support Google software and devices), Google will enter a face-saving bid but do so in such a way as to be assured of losing. Why spend money when you’ve already gotten your way?

    Google never really cared about forcing spectrum winners to wholesale access. This was a throwaway demand to the FCC. Even in the land of Google they understand that if a prerequisite to buying something is to give it away, the price goes down dramatically and no one will make the investment necessary to utilize the spectrum.

    I have to admit I’m quite impressed with the stand on free speech (except in China), transparency (except in China), and openness (except in China). Don’t be evil. Except in China.

  2. Paul,

    Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents. I think it’s way more likely that Google along with others will form a coalition to tackle this thing. I doubt Google would want to invest that much money into the spectrum let alone the build out. Also, they wanted wholesale rules like eg. like the 1996 telecom act gave CLECs (of course that was taken away).

    One more thing that just popped into my head was that if they used the CLEC model the privacy concerns would fall on the layer2/3 providers not on layer 1 (which would own and operate the equipment).

    This would also allow them to ensure network neutrality since they would have a steak in the company they created/backed.