Google concerned about Verizon's open access

It asks FCC to step in to ensure compliance

WASHINGTON -- Google Inc. has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to obtain a pledge from Verizon Wireless that it will honor the open-access conditions on a band of 700-MHz spectrum before selling the spectrum to the carrier.

Google, in a filing with the FCC on Friday, raised concerns that Verizon Wireless wasn't committed to the open-access rules the FCC put on the nationwide C block of the 700-MHz spectrum the agency sold in an auction that ended in mid-March. The FCC's open-access rules require the winner of the C block to allow customers to connect wireless devices of their choosing and run any applications on the network using the C block.

Google's filing doesn't explicitly spell out what the company wants the FCC to do if Verizon doesn't pledge to follow the open-access rules, but it implies that the FCC shouldn't sell Verizon the spectrum in that case.

Before the auction started in late January, Verizon Wireless opposed the open-access rules, Google's lawyers wrote in the FCC filing.

A Verizon official in October talked about a two-tier system in the C block, in which Verizon could continue to sell locked wireless devices in addition to allowing outside devices that accepted applications of a customer's choosing, Google's lawyers noted. Verizon, in a filing to the FCC, also said the commission could not force the C-block winner to allow all applications on the network, the Google filing says.

In addition, Verizon filed a lawsuit in September in an attempt to force the FCC to abandon the open-access rules, the Google filing notes. Although Verizon later dropped the lawsuit, the mobile phone trade group CTIA, which counts Verizon among its members, has a pending lawsuit against the open-access rules.

"Verizon is not free to self-define the rule to exclude any and all Verizon devices," Google's lawyers wrote. "The commission must ensure that Verizon understands that this license obligation means what it says: any apps, any devices."

In November, Verizon Wireless announced an open network initiative for all of its current spectrum. The company plans to allow outside wireless devices to connect to its mobile network by the end of 2008.

Verizon's open development initiative is "alive and well," Verizon said. "We will continue to provide even details on our open development programs as we continue to make progress," the company said. "Google's filing has no legal standing."

Google, along with several consumer groups, pushed for the open-access rules in the auction for the 700-MHz band, which many wireless experts see as spectrum that's suited for long-range wireless broadband services. Google pledged to bid at least $4.6 billion on the C block, but the company lost to Verizon's $4.7 billion bid.

Google asked the FCC to act quickly to get an open-access pledge from Verizon.

"Action now is especially necessary given the long lead time typically required for software applications developers and device manufacturers to design, develop, and deploy their products to the public, as well as the uncertainty Verizon has introduced publicly regarding its compliance with the open access obligations," Google's lawyers wrote.

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