The FCC decides that in the next auction of wireless spectrum, it would set aside part of the airwaves for open use. Consumers would be able to use whatever devices could connect on those frequencies and download applications as they wished. It would be a partial end to the closed systems where cellphone companies picked up real estate at the auctions and only allows their customers with their phones to use it.
Google (GOOG) and several other companies had pushed the "open airwaves" program and the FCC has agreed that it is a good idea.
Verizon Wireless does not.
The big telecom joint venture between Verizon (VZ) and Vodafone (VOD) is taking its case to the federal appeals court claiming that the FCC is "exceeding its authority in requiring carriers to open their networks to any devices and cellphone applications."
While Verizon may not win the case, it could, according to The Wall Street Journal "give Verizon a leverage point in its private discussions with Google, which has been shopping plans to offer Google-powered phones to various cellphone companies, including Verizon."
But, the case goes well beyond that, and Verizon is, up to a point, right in confronting the FCC. The agency is asking for billions of dollars for the new spectrum. It is then telling the buyers.that they should undermine their own businesses by letting consumers use the airwaves for whatever devices and software they want. Buy the spectrum and then give it away.
If the government wants consumers to have access to the airwaves, to use them as they see fit, fine. Let the FCC open up that spectrum without an auction. Give it to the citizens. They do pay taxes. But, don’t expect companies to pay for the privilege.
Douglas A. McIntyre