A trio of Republican congressmen — whose careers have been funded by AT&T — insist that Google (GOOG) “duped” the FCC and was “gaming” the system by bidding (and losing) in the government’s latest wireless specrum auction, which finished last month. Please.
Google bid enough to activate “open access” rules for one chunk of the spectrum, meaning the auction winner — Verizon Wireless, which ultimately outbid Google — must allow subscribers to use any compatible device and software application on those airwaves. This is good for Google, whose ads can’t be blocked, and bad for Verizon (VZ), which loses some control over its network. It’s also great for consumers, who now have more choice.
Of course, the AT&T-funded Congressmen can’t resist the opportunity to stand up for their patrons. Bloomberg:
“Google was successful in gaming the system,” said Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican. The rules were a “social engineering” experiment by the Federal Communications Commission that prevented the spectrum swath, known as the C-block, from raising billions of dollars more, he said.
Republican Representatives Cliff Stearns of Florida and John Shimkus of Illinois echoed Upton’s comments. Shimkus asked whether Google had “duped” the FCC by bidding primarily to trigger the open-access rules.
Did “open access” prevent the government from raising more money on the C-block? It’s possible, but we’ll never know. Yes, AT&T spent comparably more during the auction on spectrum without “open-access” rules. But that doesn’t mean that someone would have bid more than Verizon did on the C-block — or that Verizon would have bid more if there had been no “open access” rules.
Do “open access” rules unfairly benefit Google? Maybe in theory–because Google is the leader in Web search advertising and one of the largest Web companies. But “open access” is open to everyone, not just Google. People will still get to choose themselves which devices to buy, which Web sites they will visit, and which ads they’ll click on. These could just as easily be Nokia’s (NOK), Microsoft’s (MSFT) — or Verizon’s — as Google’s.
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