Google calls for real-time auctions of US radio spectrum

Google calls for real-time auctions of US radio spectrum
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First Published: Wed, May 23 2007. 03 23 PM IST
Updated: Wed, May 23 2007. 03 23 PM IST
San Francisco: Google has filed a proposal with the Federal Communications Commission calling on the agency to let companies allocate radio spectrum using the same kind of real-time auction that the search engine company now uses to sell advertisements.
Executives at Google said the company had no plans to bid in the closely watched sale of a swath of broadcast spectrum scheduled for February 2009 as part of the US transition to digital broadcast television.
Google, which operates the world’s dominant search engine, has become an active participant in the debate over the control of access to broadband digital networks because it wants to create more competition among digital network providers like cable companies and Internet service providers.
The Google filing on 21 May came two days before a deadline for public comments set in an FCC rule-making procedure for the sale of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, now largely used by UHF television broadcasters.
The agency is planning to set the rules for its auction this year as potential bidders jockey for position, including telephone, cable and satellite operators, and consortiums interested in creating new next-generation digital wireless networks.
Google calls for real-time auctions of US radio spectrumIntel and STMicroelectronics to merge flash memory units EU poised to cap cellphone roaming fees. Several groups of bidders hope to use the spectrum to create a new nationwide digital wireless network that would serve as an alternative broadband channel to businesses and consumers, competing with existing telephone and cable providers.
”The driving reason we’re doing this is that there are not enough broadband options for consumers,” said Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for Google’s policy office in Washington.
In their proposal, Google executives argue that by permitting companies to resell the airwaves in a real-time auction would make it possible to greatly improve spectrum use and simultaneously create a robust market for innovative digital services. For instance, a company could resell its spectrum on an as-needed basis to other providers, the executives said in their formal proposal to the federal agency.
FCC auction methods used in the past have been criticized because they required advance payments, leaving companies with less money needed to build infrastructure, resulting in fewer benefits to consumers in the way of advanced telecommunications services.
”In Google’s view, many of these thorny problems would be alleviated by a more open and market-driven spectrum access policy,” Google wrote.
The Google proposal will be endorsed this week by one of the consortiums planning to bid in the spectrum auction: Frontline Wireless, an investor group founded by Reed Hundt, a former FCC commissioner, with Silicon Valley venture capitalists including the Google investors John Doerr and Ram Shriram.
”I’m hoping we treat spectrum as a scarce renewable resource which should be used for the common good of the consumer and to make available the most innovative devices that can connect to those consumers,” Shriram said.
Hundt said in an e-mail message: ”We propose that one-quarter of the capacity of the network that uses this spectrum must be sold not in a long-term service contract but instead in ongoing open auctions to any and all comers.”
The proposal is for the wholesale auction of spectrum. However, in the future such a system might require that advanced computing technology be built into wireless handsets and computers to automate the auction bidding process and permit it to take place without users’ noticing. The Google proposal states that such a system would reduce retail prices for wireless spectrum and extend Internet access into rural areas.
One significant issue in the debate is whether the FCC will be able to meet a mandate in the digital television law calling for reallocation of the frequencies to public safety organizations while simultaneously making spectrum available for commercial applications.
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First Published: Wed, May 23 2007. 03 23 PM IST
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