22 megahertz of “open access”

Well we were waiting all day for the news but it came over the wires around 6 last night. The FCC approved “open access” for part of the spectrum. Some say its kind of a win for Google but AT&T is keeping its own spin positive.

From Reuters:

“The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday voted to shake up the wireless market by approving a set of ground-rules for a big airwaves auction that would require the winner to make them accessible to any cell phone, device or application.

The access requirement would apply to 22 megahertz of the 62 MHz of spectrum to be sold. The FCC suggested a $4.6 billion minimum price for the 22 MHz block of airwaves. If that price is not reached, the airwaves would be auctioned again, but without the access requirement, according to the agency.”

Kevin Martin’s statement (via MocoNews)

Chairman Kevin Martin: I am committed to ensuring that the fruits of wireless innovation swiftly pass into the hand of consumers.

Currently, American consumers are too often asked to throw away their old phones and buy new ones if they want to switch cell phone carriers. And when they buy that new phone, it is the wireless provider, not the consumer, who chooses what applications the consumer will be allowed to use on that new handset…

A network that is more open to devices and applications can help foster innovation on the edges of the network…We will ensure these open platform rules are implemented, through significant enforcement mechanisms that place the burden on the licensee to demonstrate their compliance and that their policies are fair and reasonable.

Interested parties respond (via GigaOM)

Google: “The FCC took real but incomplete progress this afternoon,” said Rick Whitt, Google’s lead policy exec, in a conference call Tuesday afternoon, lauding the openness conditions but lamenting the omission of rules enforcing wholesale access to the spectrum. When asked if Google would still bid on the spectrum, Whitt said Google “didn’t say it wouldn’t,” meaning that Google will make that decision at a later date.

Frontline: “The FCC [vote] did not make it impossible for us, but they did make it clear that they weren’t going to use [the auction rules] to alter the importance of Verizon and AT&T,” Hundt said. Hundt’s take is that since the rules do allow for a bidder to construct a private-public partnership for public-safety buildout, there is still a chance for ideas like Frontline’s to succeed, but only if tech companies who agree with its goals stop “acting like warring Scottish clans” and instead band together more closely in their efforts.

AT&T: Though we have not yet seen the details of today’s decision on the 700 MHz spectrum auction, the FCC appears to have struck a reasonable balance between the competing interests debating the Google Plan. As we’ve previously noted, if Google is serious about introducing a competing business model into the wireless industry, Chairman Martin’s compromise plan allows them to bid in the auction, win the spectrum, and then implement every one of the conditions they seek. We commend the FCC for adopting this approach rather than stacking the deck in Google’s favor.

About Daniel Davenport

Daniel is a digital media executive with internet and broadcast experience. Daniel is currently the executive strategy director at THINK Interactive.

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