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Google: Spectrum bid goal was openness, not winning

FCC rules prohibiting the company from talking about the spectrum auction have lifted. Google says it bid to drive prices up to ensure openness rules were adopted.

Google says it participated in the recent wireless spectrum auction not with the goal to win, but to help drive bidding high enough to ensure that open-access rules it had pushed for would be adopted.

"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 that would trigger the important 'open applications' and 'open handsets' license conditions," Richard Whitt, Washington telecom and media counsel, and Joseph Faber, corporate counsel, wrote in a posting Thursday on Google's Public Policy Blog.

"We were also prepared to gain the nationwide C Block licenses at a price somewhat higher than the reserve price; in fact, for many days during the early course of the auction, we were the high bidder. But it was clear, then and now, that Verizon Wireless ultimately was motivated to bid higher (and had far more financial incentive to gain the licenses)," the entry said.

That confirms what CNET News.com and others had speculated about Google's strategy, but it is the first Google acknowledgment on the matter. Federal Communications Commission rules had prohibited Google from discussing its participation in the spectrum auction until Thursday.

Verizon was announced the winner of the 700MHz auction on March 20.

Last year, Google urged the FCC to adopt conditions requiring whoever operates the network to allow any device or application to connect to it. And now, Verizon will have to build and operate the network and open it up to others, including Google and devices running its Android mobile platform.

Google had vowed to bid at least $4.6 billion if the FCC adopted all four "openness" rules it was promoting, and even though only two were adopted, Google still honored its promise, the company says. In 10 of the bidding rounds, Google actually raised its bid, despite the fact that no one was bidding against them, to make sure bidding was "aggressive," according to the blog posting.

"We still believed it was important to demonstrate through action our commitment to a more open wireless world," the post says.

Going forward, Google will weigh in at the FCC when it implements rules for the C Block and as it moves forward on a D Block re-auction. The company also will continue advocating for opening up the vacant "white spaces" in the TV spectrum band for use by mobile broadband devices. In addition, Google will push for similar actions to bring the openness of the Internet to the wireless world in other countries.