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Today, if you have a few million bucks to spare, the Federal Communications Commission will be auctioning wireless licenses in the 700 MHz band — primo space in many respects because it is lower on the RF spectrum and offers longer range. But Auction 92, as it is called, is anything but primo, since it is for licenses that either received no bids in the previous Auction 73, held in 2008, or were sold in that auction to organizations that never paid in full. That earlier auction, which I covered at the time, is a sad story of opportunity lost, especially for Google.
Remember how that freed-up spectrum was up for auction and Google made loud noises about bidding. I even predicted that they would bid, because that’s what I was hearing from inside the Googleplex. Google wanted to set up a national wireless network to rival anything from Verizon or AT&T. Only Google didn’t follow-through on its threat to bid and the frequencies were cherry-picked, instead, primarily by the big wireless incumbent carriers who have for the most part done little with them.
They bought the spectrum primarily to keep it out of play, to keep a viable competitor from emerging.
That decision not to bid back in 2008 seemed very short-sighted of Google. But now I hear from people who were inside the FCC at the time that Google was privately told by the Bush Administration not to bid.
What if Google had defied this government nudge? I guess the threat was they’d have it taken from them anyway through some regulatory action or legal challenge. But had Google succeeded, we wouldn’t be seeing bandwidth caps being imposed today on wireless data plans. And wireless data would be cheaper everywhere.
Our tax dollars at work….