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Lawmakers point fingers at Google in 700 MHz auction.

With the record-setting 700 MHz officially closed and out of the way, lawmakers have instead chosen to focus their attention on some of the auction’s more minute details: “why didn’t the D-block sell?” ask some.

Did Google game the auction in order to ensure it had access to spectrum?” ask others.

Lead by U.S. Representatives Cliff Stearns and John Shimkis, lawmakers suggested that Google “out-maneuvered” the FCC by bidding for the open-access “C” block in order to meet its reserve, fully expecting another company to outbid it – and that’s exactly what happened.

Google officials, writing in an April 3 blog post on the 700 MHz auction, somewhat confirmed Congress’ suspicions: “Google's top priority heading into the auction was to make sure that bidding on the so-called ‘C Block’ reached the $4.6 billion reserve price,” it says, “[in order to] trigger the important ‘open applications’ and ‘open handsets’ license conditions.”

Google says it helped increase U.S. treasury funds, noting that it upped its bid in ten of the bidding rounds -- even when it was only bidding against itself -- in an effort to meet the FCC’s $4.6 billion reserve price.

Stearns accused Google of manipulating the FCC, and the FCC of setting the reserve in a way that allowed Google a “free ride” on the C block. An effort by Google to, perhaps, sustain the Open Handset Alliance and provide a home for its open-source Android mobile phone OS.

“I suspect that if Google had been interested in more than just maneuvering within the system, it could have prevailed in the C block and become a new [wireless] entrant,” said Stearns, speaking to the House of Representatives’ Subcomittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. “I suppose we cannot blame them for trying to get free access to the spectrum; what is more concerning is, that even though we knew what they were doing, we let them maneuver this way anyway.”

The C block’s open access requirement stifled bidding, said Stearns, who cited a number of estimates that said the government could have earned up to $30 billion had it not set Google’s requirements.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who many consider as the one responsible for getting the open-access requirements approved, disagreed with the House subcommittee: “Our goal, in adopting the openness conditions, was not to prohibit someone else from winning, but to actually [require] whoever won that spectrum to have an open platform.”

Martin’s behavior – particularly with decisions regarding the 700 MHz auction and the ongoing Comcast debacle – earned him a spot in hot water, with staffers and lawmakers alike accusing him of wielding dictatorial powers.





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