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Sprint-Clearwire: Google’s Role Too Big? Pay-For-Access Deal Raises Net Neutrality-Like Concerns

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Over the last year, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has made its presence known in the wireless industry, not for its applications, but instead, for its position on open access. The internet giant has been extremely vocal, arguing that wireless networks should be more like the Internet — they should be available to all devices and applications. In fact, the argument was so compelling, the FCC took action by saying that a swath of airwaves Verizon Wireless bought in the recent auction must be open to all devices and applications. But now, Google is investing $500 million as part of the $14.5 billion deal between Sprint (NYSE: S) Nextel and Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR) — and in return it is getting tremendous access, not only to the WiMax network, but also to Sprint’s existing cellular network, putting into question how open the two networks will be going forward.

Both Google and Clearwire dismiss these fears. Clearwire’s CEO Ben Wolff, who will lead the new joint venture, told mocoNews today that the 4G network will be open and not have the constraints of a 3G network — and that any applications Google builds will be optional for the customer. He said the applications should be great since the two companies will work closely together to build specific applications for the network. “We will benefit from it and so will they — one of the reasons it appealed to them is because with a 4G network, they can have a commitment to openness — we don

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