U.S. News

Google Wins FCC Vote on 'Open Access' for Wireless Spectrum

Jim Goldman

The Federal Communications Commission voted 4-1 to adopt a key "open access" resolution supported by search giant Google when a new wireless spectrum is auctioned in January, what could be a significant blow to wireless leadersAT&Tand Verizon.

The auction could raise as much as $15 billion.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Tuesday that the vote "provides an important opportunity for consumers to be able to go to a new wireless provider and be able to take whatever wireless device or handset they want."

"This kind of spectrum doesn't become available very often so it's going to be very important," Martin added. "This is probably the last auction for that kind of spectrum for quite awhile."

The open-access provision was a key initiative for Google, trying to make sure the incumbent wireless companies could not act as a kind of "digital gatekeeper" for Google's software on mobile devices.

Google made the argument that the new spectrum should be open to all software vendors and hardware makers, allowing software and hardware to work wirelessly no matter the network.

As an example, Apple's iPhone only works on the AT&T network. Under the new rules, exclusivity like that would not be possible.

The open-access will allow customers to use any phone and software they want on about a third of the network to be auctioned.

There had been talk that Google would bid on the wireless spectrum and deploy its own, free, high-speed wireless nationwide network. While that is still a possibility, it now seems more remote since Google will now enjoy the benefits of "open access" without having to pony up the billions it would have taken to buy its own network.