Wireless Consumers Both Win and Lose With New FCC Rules

You win some, you lose some. Google’s bid to created an open wireless network was only partially sucessful today as the FCC rejected some of the search giant’s conditions, but adopted others.

In the plus column, the FCC ruled that the winners of space on the new, better, faster 700 mhz network would be “required to provide a platform open to devices and applications.” This is good news, both for Google and for consumers in general.

Google didn’t get their request for a requirement that would force companies to lease the new space to smaller “third-party” operators in order to create a so-called “third pipe” into the home along with phone and cable.

Google responded to the ruling on the Google Public Policy blog, praising the FCC for adopting the conditions that they did. From the tone of the post, they haven’t ruled themselves out of the auction:

…it would have a more complete victory for consumers had the FCC adopted all four of the license conditions that we advocated, in order to pave the way for the real “third pipe” broadband competition that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has been touting. For our part, we will need time to carefully study the actual text of the FCC’s rules, due out in a few weeks, before we can make any definitive decisions about our possible participation in the auction.

In the meantime, we thank Chairman Martin for his leadership, and his compelling insight that American consumers deserve better in the wireless and broadband worlds.

All in all, the future of wireless looks a little brighter. Wireless carriers operating on the new network will no longer be able to lock you into a crippled handset or prevent you form using applications such as Skype.

Signs of Real Progress At The FCC [Google Public Policy Blog]
FCC REVISES 700 MHz RULES TO ADVANCE INTEROPERABLE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMUNICATIONS AND PROMOTE WIRELESS BROADBAND DEPLOYMENT (PDF) [FCC]

Comments

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  1. gozilla09 says:

    1. Google’s bid to CREATE
    2. Prevent you FROM using

  2. Skiffer says:

    Anyone else starting to get a bit worried about an upcoming (or already present) Google-opoly?

  3. woah, i fell asleep, i woke up. i think this is generally a good though

  4. mantari says:

    I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords. A benevolent monopoly can be better than very weak (non)competition.

  5. allstarecho says:

    700 mhz is the same as wireless microphones and wireless guitar units. Get ready to listen to cell phone conversations in concert.

  6. TVarmy says:

    So is the iPhone going to be freed? Or is it not retroactive?

    Also, can’t a crappy cellphone OS pretty much lock you out of anything but stuff from the wireless company by sheer virtues of its limitations? I don’t quite get that legislation. It seems to me that most cell phones can either let you run external code or not. Some OSes just don’t seem like they could handle that. Smartphones run outside apps, most others don’t, and the other cellphones have proprietary operating systems that lack a publicly available method for programming.

  7. gundark says:

    So can anyone with industry knowledge take an educated guess as to when exactly we might have the luxury (sarcasm) of a platform open to devices and applications?

  8. startertan says:

    @mantari:

    “One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.”

    So far Google hasn’t given me anything to worry about but it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for. Could the Google-opoly be any worse than the Microsoft Empire?

  9. Imjustmatthew says:

    I don’t think a Google will be as bad as Microsoft, but they have the potential to be far worse. Google has some of the top CS talent in the nation, it understands marketing like Microsoft never has, and has more information about ever person on the internet than the NSA goons ever will. They could do some pretty scary stuff if they decided to.

  10. Gridneo says:

    Fingers crossed that this posturing is a direct slap in the face of AT&T… Google wants to cut the strings that AT&T has over them, and the other stances they’ve recently made make sense with this. We’ll see if it pans out, but Free Wi-Fi all around could be nice.

  11. Jim says:

    @allstarecho: Correct allstar! Much as I too am looking forward to a new and better network, it’s really got great potential to mess up live music.

    Contact your representatives asking them to support H.R. 1320 which will provide time for the FCC to adequately test new devices to make sure current devices aren’t adversely affected.

  12. Thud says:

    This whole debate has been characterized by meaningless soundbites and incorrect information.

    @allstarecho, the controversy around wireless mics in 700 MHz has to do with the FCC’s TV Whitespace proceeding related to unlicensed device use of channels *below* this spectrum. Wrong band.

    @mantari, weak noncompetition? Last I counted there were four national carriers and, quite often a number of local carriers. I can move my number from carrier to carrier already. Plus, between the AWS auction and the 700 auction, the amount of spectrum available for mobile services is almost doubling. (Throw in unlicensed spectrum and you double that number again.) Competition in mobile is cut throat. You don’t believe me, look at the FCC’s stats on dropping rates–they have annual competition reports on their website.

    Fundamentally, why should the carriers “open” their networks? There isn’t any constitutional right to “open access,” whatever that means. They bought the spectrum from the FCC (or private parties), built the networks (risking their investors capital), and struggled through years of losing money. The Carterfone decision people keep pointing to was a decision relating to a vertically integrated monopoly–Ma Bell. Nor are wireless networks like the internet, which was originally built by DARPA with federal funds.

    Remember, if Google really wants to do this for you, it can. Google can buy the spectrum and create a network. It can open access all it wants. What Google wanted was the right to force existing carriers to open things for them. That position only makes sense if they are trying for leverage to use an existing network.

  13. boandmichele says:

    @mantari: yeah im with ya. and also, at least it ain’t yahoo…

  14. holocron says:

    I’m guessing we now know for sure why Google acquired Grand Central.

  15. shiwsup says:

    @Jim: If it were this simple, wouldn’t we pick up TV noise over the devices today?

  16. Binaryslyder says:

    @boandmichele: test

  17. rhombopteryx says:

    @Thud:

    (trying to clean up the meaningless and incorrect info…) The FCC’s own (and inherently biased) data you cite to suggests that in the presence of meaningful competition, rates would be falling muuch faster than they are – it is the lack of competition that is preventing the significant technological improvements from resulting ins similarly significant consumer savings.
    Carriers “should open” their networks because the people who own the spectrum they are renting are telling them to. While the constitution says nothing about wireless spectrum, US laws do… Spectrum is national property, and the FCC, acting as our realestate broker, CAN and SHOULD try and get us the best deal from potential renters – if we say “no pets” or “open access,” renters should agree and sign or go rent the place next door. Yes, as a potential renter, Google can say “I promise nto to have a pet” or to have “open access,” but so what? As the landlords we can also say “promises,schmomises put it in the lease.” Meaningful open access like Google wanted would move us past the closed networks where I have to pay to switch carriers and take phone numbers with me, into a place where I could use any device I wanted on the network.
    Open access rules were necessary to promote innovation, not just to break up a monopoly. The Carterfone rules allowed companies to invent fax machines, answering machines, and then modems – all things AT&T tried to block because they would have meant a little less revenue for themselves. Which would you choose – the internet or 4cents per year more divident on your AT&T stock?

  18. Thud says:

    @rhombo… Why do four plus competitors not constitute meaningful competition? And, why do you think the FCC is biased in its reports? As I see it, they just screwed the big carriers, so why do you think they are biased for them? What about the Department of Justice, which periodically reviews mobile competition in the context of mergers and hasn’t had a problem either, aside from a few limited divestitures in specific markets?

    “Which would you choose – the internet or 4cents per year more divident on your AT&T stock?” Depends how much AT&T stock I had. ;)

    But, DARPA created the internet with US gov’t funds, not AT&T, so I’m not sure I understand. But, to your other point, yes, in a monopoly world, suppression of innovation may make sense and justify carterfone. But, my point is that we don’t have a monopoly. If so many people want this, why isn’t there a business plan that makes sense?