updated 02:00 pm EDT, Thu October 4, 2007
Google Counters Verizon
Google today publicly responded to Verizon's lawsuit over the open access terms of the FCC's wireless auction with criticism of its own, issuing a public statement in the company's policy blog. The search engine giant argued in its response that Verizon's resistance to the open access rules, which would let any device or software run on a service, was ultimately an attempt to limit the choices of end users. Verizon was illegally lobbying the FCC and threatening to stop the auction entirely because it was uncomfortable with an open business model where even its own devices could easily be switched to another carrier, according to Google's Washington media counsel, Richard Whitt.
"[Verizon's] theory is that so long as 'unlocked' devices (those that can be configured to work with any network) are theoretically available to consumers through other means, the winning bidder in the auction shouldn't be required to make its devices open as well," Whitt said. "From our perspective, this view ignores the realities of the U.S. wireless market, where some 95 percent of handsets are sold in retail stores run by the large carriers. More to the point, it is simply contrary to what the FCC's new rules actually say."
The Google legal expert specifically noted that clauses for any winner of the 700MHz frequency prevented any company from disabling features even for its existing customers, such as support for multiple carriers or services like VoIP, which many phone providers block to avoid competition from outsiders.
In making the statement, Google refrained from committing to a bid in the FCC auction as a preemptive move but said it would promote open use of wireless for Internet access and other features as a matter of principle, even if this allowed rivals a chance they would not otherwise have. The company has reportedly been developing a Google-branded phone which might eventually reach a 700MHz network and would generally rely on an open platform to succeed.
"We think the Internet offers the optimal model for what best serves the interests of all consumers," Whitt said. "To that end, we hope the FCC sticks to its guns as it tries to introduce the open ethos of the 'Net to a small segment of the closed wireless world."