Open access and Google's growing clout in the White House

There's an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal this week that highlights the growing influence Google is having on the Obama administration. The article talks about Google's role in helping with the president's transition and the amount of money Google employees donated to the president's campaign. Clearly, Google is looking to benefit from any stimulus money that will go toward broadband rollouts, but there are also many issues about which it appears Google would love to have even more clout than it did under the Republican-led FCC.

Open access clearly is one of those issues. While Google lobbied the FCC hard in 2007 to make the winners of the 700 MHz auction embrace open access, it didn't get all of the open-access provisions it wanted. The final rules included a requirement for "open access," which means the winning bidder must allow "any device" and "any application" for the C block of spectrum. There is, however, no requirement for wholesaling the C-block spectrum. Also, the final ruling did not answer Google's request for openness. By calling for "open networks," Google wanted third parties to be able to interconnect at a technically feasible point in the wireless network to enable geolocation and similar services for content providers. After last year's auction, Google filed a petition with the FCC, insisting the regulator put in place stricter terms for Verizon's C-block 700 MHz open access provisions.

Now Google has an opportunity to force the issue again with the stimulus package that will include money for broadband rollouts. As it stands, the proposed legislation includes provisions for open access, but the provisions are to be defined by the FCC. Will Google get what it originally sought from the 700 MHz auction?

Moreover, despite the fact the 700 MHz C-block spectrum has an open-access provision attached, it's clear the FCC will have to formulate a plan on how to enforce it. I'm sure Google would like a hand in that as well.--Lynnette