Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Google to America: "All Your Base Are Belong to Us"

Hooray! Finally an announcement everyone has been waiting for:

Google's Quest for 700 MHz is on.

Quick background: Our nation's cable providers, during their takeover of our public infrastructure, promised the government a bandwidth of 700 MHz for usage in broadcasting public emergencies, public access, etc. The Digital TV Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, however, mandates the transfer of all television stations from analog to digital source by February 2009. As an interesting sidenote: the act has some legislative ties with the Deficit Reduction Act, passed into law with a tie-breaking vote by Dick Cheney, which gradually reduces the financing of Medicaid and Medicare while also adjusting formulas for student loans.

The transition to digital leaves a significant portion of allotted government bandwidth open. The bandwidth, meant to provide TV source, provides a wonderful opportunity for wireless internet providers. The FCC has also realized this, along with recognizing the benefit of private development over government regulation. In August 2000, the FCC issued a press release discussing the details of an imminent auction. The details are discussed below, as taken from IntoMobile.com:

The 700Mhz spectrum will be divied up into five blocks (A-E) and will command a reserve price of $10 billion for all licenses combined. Of these blocks, the most sought-after is the C block - the piece of the spectrum that will be required to allow the open-access provisions recently set forth by the FCC. The C block will be sliced up into 12 licenses which will be bundled into three packages - one package will cover all 50 US states, the second will cover US Pacific territories, and the third will cover Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The entirety of the C block will have a reserve auction price of $4.6 billion.

Whoever gets the block will be in an extremely good situation. The owner of the bandwidth would literally be able to project wireless service into people's houses. In an era where smartphones and laptops are necessary accessories, the potential is great.

To participate in the auction the FCC requires you have $10 billion in available resources. Unfortunately, this rules out an average millionaire joe getting together with some other wealthy buddies to buy some of the real estate. So it's up to the corporations, such as Verizon and other big-name telecommunication corporations. Most likely, if a big telecom gets the bandwidth, they will create a bullshit cash cow with their new power.

What about The Google? Indeed, Google filed a request to enter the auction bid under four "open-access" stipulations: that the bandwidth will be utilized by (1) open applications, (2) open devices, (3) open wholesale services, and (4) open network access. Sort of like the good witch from the Wizard of Oz. Leave it to Verizon, though, to rear its ugly head. Verizon claims allowing the individual to be allowed to decide through open-access is "capricious" and "violates the US Constitution." So, taking a federally-owned bandwidth and turning it over to the citizens is...wrong? We should pay for something that is already property of the government? That doesn't make sense.

Today's announcement by Google confirms they are ready to go head-to-head with the big dogs of the telecoms. However, there's no assurance Google won't do something awful with the bandwidth either. And if they do, who will be accountable? Ultimately, the answer is no one, except the CEO and board of Google. Do no evil, right guys?

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