Google Vows Broader Open Wireless Access Fight

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While Martin's speech this week drew cheers from his audience, many outside the wireless establishment did not share the enthusiasm.

"While the recent trend toward greater openness for consumers is encouraging, one could argue that the incumbent carriers are taking these steps partly under the threat that the FCC will act on the Skype petition," Google's Whitt said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. "In order to protect consumers, the FCC should keep the Skype petition in place as an effective deterrent against bad behavior."

Christopher Libertelli, Skype's senior director of government and regulatory affairs, echoed Google's concerns and was predictably disappointed in Martin's remarks.

"Without Commission oversight in this area, the FCC will have taken a step backward away from openness, and toward a policy of 'trust the carriers,' Libertelli said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. "While we are cautiously optimistic that the carriers will deliver greater openness, unfortunately, if the FCC acts on the chairman's recommendation, it will have given up the tools to protect consumers if they do not."

Opinion within the FCC itself is divided, with Commissioner Michael Copps quickly lashing out at Martin's comments.

"This is not the time for the FCC to declare victory and withdraw from the fight for open wireless networks," Copps said in a statement. "I would be a lot happier if Chairman Martin had come out today in favor of a strong and unequivocal FCC commitment to non-discriminatory, pro-consumer conduct in the wireless world."

Copps argued that since consumers are used to being able to run any software application on any computer, that freedom should extend to wireless devices as well.

D Block and white space

With the first Android phone expected to ship later this year, Google's commitment to ensuring open-network access is fast becoming a business priority, not just a matter of principle. Not surprisingly, the company is pushing ahead with efforts to encourage lawmakers to open other areas of available spectrum.

Whit and Farber said they would continue to pressure the FCC to tap the so-called "white spaces" in the television spectrum for use in mobile broadband.

In addition to determining whether to regulate network openness, the FCC must also decide how to dispose of the 700MHz spectrum's D Block, which failed to meet its reserve price during bidding.

Google said it would discuss with the FCC on how to re-auction the D Block, which is reserved for pubic safety networks. Lawmakers also are expected to hold hearings on the matter.

"As more policymakers and regulators around the world evaluate their own spectrum policies, we'll continue pushing to help make the wireless world look much more like the open platform of the Internet," Whitt and Farber wrote.

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