Google accuses Verizon of violating FCC lobbying rules

Google accused Verizon Oct. 3 of fudging Federal Communications Commission rules in its lobbying efforts to convince FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to roll back the open access requirements for the January 700 MHz auction.

After first lobbying against the open access requirements, Verizon went to court Sept. 10 to force the FCC to change the rules, calling the open access provisions "arbitrary, capricious and…contrary to law." Verizon wants the spectrum to be unconditionally sold to the highest bidder.

Google, which has indicated it might be interested in bidding for spectrum, now claims Verizon is being too vague in disclosing its meetings with FCC officials over the spectrum. FCC rules allow for these ex parte meetings, but Google contended in an Oct. 1 filing with the FCC that Verizon is guilty of "improprieties" in reporting its ex parte communications with the FCC.

According to Richard Whitt, Google's chief telecom counsel, it appears, "Verizon is lobbying behind the scenes (and in apparent violation of FCC rules) to once again convince the FCC to water down key aspects of the pro-consumer rule provisions."

Click here to read more about the FCC's decision on the 700MHz spectrum auction.

Writing in the Google public blog on Oct. 3, Whitt said Verizon is attempting to convince the FCC that the open access rules should not apply to a licensee's own devices.

"Their theory is that so long as 'unlocked' devices (those that can be configured to work with any network) are theoretically available to consumers through other means, the winning bidder in the auction shouldn't be required to make its devices open as well," Whitt wrote.

Whitt said that the Verizon proposal ignores the reality that 95 percent of handsets are sold in retail stores run by the large carriers.

"Needless to say, any attempt to change the…rules language would seriously undermine the promise of consumers seeking more choices of wireless providers and services," Whitt wrote.

In addition to at least $4.6 billion to win the spectrum, Google estimates it would cost as much as $12 billion and take as long as three years to build a national wireless network from scratch. In the Google blog, Whitt again stressed Google has not made a decision on bidding for the spectrum.

"We are still carefully analyzing whether and how we might participate in the upcoming auction. However, if we do end up bidding and ultimately win the spectrum in question, we would ensure that consumers have the right to decide which devices and applications they want to use on our network," Whitt wrote.

The auction is expected to generate $15 billion to $20 billion for the government. The spectrum is considered ideal for delivering advanced wireless services since the signals can travel great distances and penetrate walls and other barriers to reception.

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