Google's Political Push for Place in Wireless Broadband Sun

04 May 2007

WASHINGTON, DC: Richard Whitt, former head of the regulatory department at MCI, has for the past three months stomped Washington's corridors of power as Google's political proselytizer-in-chief. Or, more politely put, its telecoms and media counsel.

Whitt is currently wearing-out the Federal Communications Commission's carpets in a bid to ensure that specific wireless airwaves are made available for free public use.

He's even more eager to ensure that the upcoming $10 billion (€7.35bn; £5.02bn) license auction of wireless airwaves is executed in a way that doesn't restrict first bite of the cherry to the established telecom giants.

Which is one reason for Google's membership of the Coalition for 4G in America - alongside Skype's webphone service, Yahoo, wireless services provider Access, chipmaker Intel, and satellite TV companies DirecTV and EchoStar.

The search giant is determined to ensure its content can flow unimpeded (and untaxed) across high-speed web networks worldwide. In the USA, its strategy is to lobby for maximum competition in the broadband access marketplace, diluting the domin-ance of telco titans such as AT&T and Comcast.

Google is concerned that America's wireless service, home broadband, and TV providers wield too much power in determining the nature of the content and services available to the public.

The auction, says Whitt "holds the key to creating [more] competition . . . there're potentially lots of folks who could come in.

"Google's key interest here is in seeing fourth and fifth [broadband access] pipes to the home to compete with cable and telecom companies."

The 4G coalition is demanding the FCC adopt policies such as packaged bidding - enabling contenders to acquire licenses nationwide in a single deal, rather than market-by-market as at present.

The Google-led consortium is also pressing the FCC to offer wide swaths of spectrum, a necessity for turbocharged wireless services.

Data sourced from Business Week (daily); additional content by WARC staff