Monday, July 30, 2007

Google and the Open Wireless Networks Goal

This morning, as I drove 10 miles out of my way to avoid an accident that wasn't reported on traffic radio (which is a gripe for another day), I tuned into NPR for Morning Addition. I love public radio, because the news is probably the least biased that I have ever heard (yet still very biased). It's refreshing to hear about events that most major news groups would see beneath them, such as the existence of Rose Shows.

This particular morning they had This article on Google's efforts to urge the FCC to open wireless networks to more competition outside of the "Big Four". The reason behind it is sound: In the wake of a possible failure of the Net Neutrality situation, Google wants to secure the future of wireless networks by making their applications, search engines, etc. available for everyone who want to use it. It's a boost for business in a growing market, and provides good PR for Google.

Another really good reason I heard Google mention on Friday was the need for real competition within the Wireless Network community. Right now, you have the Big Four: Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. There are other, smaller networks, but they are marginalized by these big competitors. A lot of it has to do with existing network presence, limited radio bandwidth availability because of funding, and so on. Sound familiar? Ma Bell had the same setup, and continues to have the same setup with service monopolies in areas where they own the infrastructure.

So what's the answer? provide a public infrastructure. Google is trying to convince the FCC of this through their auctions. It would force the winning bidders to provide access to these air waves to allow other networks to utilize them. Hence better network support, better customer service, better consumer experiences.

Sounds very similar to the arguments that initiated the UTOPIA project in various Utah cities. And the same arguments are being made against Google's initiative: Bidding will not go as high, and the FCC will take a hit on how much money they will make, ultimately hurting the tax payer in the short run. So Google offered the answer: Guarantee a bid that will be attractive to the FCC and make the potential loss go away. The same attempt was done by various businessmen in Salt Lake to convince the Salt Lake Council to go with UTOPIA.

I wish Google success in this endeavor. Perhaps they can create a change in the wireless community that will make me want to have a cell phone. Perhaps they can convince an increasingly consumer-hostile business to release their strangle-hold on the market to allow for real competition to emerge, and by doing so provide an air of innovation that will make wireless a network worth innovating in.

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