An upcoming Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction is pitting search giant Google against the largest phone companies in the country in a public-policy battle that could determine how Americans access the Internet in the future.
The 700MHz spectrum, which has been used to provide analog TV service, is considered the last piece of prime real estate left among wireless airwaves because it's able to travel long distances and penetrate walls. Everyone from mobile operators to public-safety companies to Google sees the spectrum as a perfect opportunity to extend mobile broadband services.
Google's plans to participate in the auction is a move likely to upset the traditional spectrum auction applecart.
The company is pushing the FCC to adopt rules in the upcoming 700-megahertz auction set to ensure that winners of certain spectrum licenses will have to adhere to four openness principles. These include guaranteeing that consumers can use any device or software on the network, as well as forcing winning bidders to offer spectrum at reasonable wholesale prices to ensure that small companies can get access to wireless capacity to build competitive wireless services.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the two largest wireless operators in the United States, say they would accept an open-access rule for devices, but they are against any rules guaranteeing open access for companies seeking to buy wholesale capacity.
Chris Sacca, head of special initiatives at Google, is in charge of looking for alternative forms of broadband access for the company. And he's one of the leaders in Google's fight in Washington to guarantee open access in the upcoming auction.
Up to this point, Sacca, who came to Google in 2003, was best known for initiating Google's free citywide Wi-Fi projects being built in San Francisco and Mountain View, Calif.