Is Google Getting Too Big For Comfort?

These days it seems that Google has it’s hands in everything. Their latest interest is the radio frequencies that the FCC is auctioning. The frequencies is used for the old UHF television spectrum. Google sent lobbyists to Washington in order to give a hard push for Google’s interests. They promised the FCC that they would bid $4.6 billion for the spectrum only if the FCC followed their rules. Imagine, Google dictating to the FCC as to what it should do.

There are four points to their terms that require the FCC to ensure that the new parcels of spectrum be “open platforms”. #1 Consumers need to be able to use any device they want. #2 The devices would support software like browser and e-mail. #3 The operators of the new networks would be required to lease some of their spectrum to other providers. #4 And last but not least, all networks would have to be compatible. -From Fortune Magazine article “Don’t Be Arrogant”

Sound familiar? It’s an attempt at the “New Net”. The traditional carriers were blindsided by Google’s demands. They’re outraged as they believe that if they pay billions for the new spectrum, shouldn’t they able to use it as they see fit? They also have issues with the idea of allowing any device to connect to the network. To companies like Verizon and AT&T these are very foreign concepts. In fact though, this mentality of proprietary networks and devices is one of the major reasons that the USA is behind Europe and even further behind Asia when it comes to wireless technology. The self interest of companies in the US has hampered the implementation of standards and slowed the development of the technology that runs the networks. One of the best things in Europe is that if the battery on your phone dies you can just pop your sim card into your buddies phone, even when he has service from a different company, and start calling. That way your buddy doesn’t have to worry about running up his phone bill. It all going through your sim card and your account. It is still amazing to me that some companies in the US don’t even use the sim card technology. Another example of the market in the US limiting itself with proprietary restrictions is shown in the highly publicized iPhone. Recently hackers were able to unlock the device so it could be used on any network. This will boost the sales of the iPhone. The way things currently work is when you get a new phone it is locked so you can’t use a card from another carrier. This limits the type of phone you can get when you sign up for service, depending on what company you use. Currently the iPhone is only being sold by AT&T.

The technology limitation of the US wireless market are not really the issue here. The question is whether or not Google has overstepped it’s boundaries by putting forth such demands for the new radio spectrum auction. Or wait, maybe it is really about the limitations the US market has put on itself…..

Google has always claimed to be working for the greater good. With their bold moves into book scanning, word processing software and now the wireless market (as well a many, many other areas), to some it has become unclear what the “greater good” is. Even better, for who’s “greater good” they are really working. In the case of wireless technology however, they make a valid point. Maybe now is the chance to the industry to move forward. If the US market would adopt a more uniform and open network, instead of the major carriers trying to go it alone and out do each other. We would all see a much more robust system in the US. The consumer(something I fear many of the wireless companies have forgotten about) would win big if this could be achieved. Being able to buy and phone you want for any carrier; a market for reselling your phone if you like to always have the newest phone; would be two of many positives. Yes, this would bring down many of the barriers restricting customers from jumping from one provider to another, something the carriers of course fear, but then that would force them to concentrate more on service. A novel idea, don’t you think?

So, to go full circle… Is Google Getting Too Big For Comfort? Most likely yes if you are a TelCo company. If you’re the average consumer, maybe not yet…

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