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AT&T Slams Google Over Open-Access Wireless 214

Posted by Zonk
from the wham-wham-wham dept.
Robert writes with a CBROnline article on AT&T's objection to opening up a nationwide wireless spectrum. Their statement is made on the grounds that it will aid Google in their bid to get bargain-basement broadband prices. Google is just one company asking for open-access requirements on wireless signals; Skype, DirecTV, and EchoStar are others. From the article: "Yesterday, AT&T weighed in. In a letter to the FCC, AT&T said Google's "eleventh hour request" was self-serving because it would encumber licenses in the forthcoming auction 'with a laundry list of intrusive 'open access' requirements that would, perhaps, entice Google to participate in the auction. By its own admission, Google's request is intended to diminish the value of those licenses, thus preventing wireless service providers such as AT&T from bidding on them and clearing the path for Google to obtain them at below-market rates.' AT&T also said an open-access network would deprive taxpayers of billions of dollars, and inhibit the growth of wireless broadband in the country."
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AT&T Slams Google Over Open-Access Wireless

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  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) <alan.dewitt@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday July 13, 2007 @12:48PM (#19850299) Journal
    "[...] an open-access network would deprive taxpayers of billions of dollars [...]"

    Speaking as a taxpayer, it seems to me that a nationwide open-access spectrum would be a very worthwhile thing to get by forgoing those "billions of dollars".

    (Nice to see that AT&T is looking out for my interests, though.)
  • From the article: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QCompson (675963) on Friday July 13, 2007 @12:53PM (#19850371)

    "The one-size-fits-all mentality that characterizes open access regimes for the wireless industry would begin the process of stifling innovation and creativity in our industry," Verizon Wireless general counsel Steven Zipperstein said...

    This is the same BS talk that these telecoms use in the net neutrality debate. "Innovation" and "creativity" seem to be the new corporate-speak for "monopolize" and "profit".
  • Selfserving much? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RingDev (879105) on Friday July 13, 2007 @12:53PM (#19850373) Homepage Journal

    AT&T also said an open-access network would deprive taxpayers of billions of dollars, and inhibit the growth of wireless broadband in the country.
    Yes, it would deprive us tax payers billions of dollars paid out by companies that we have little/no choice about buying services from, which they will just bill us for anyways. 6 one way, 1/2 dozen the other, either way the average Joe citizen will pay for it, the only question is which company will profit from it. And right now the choices appear to be AT&T, or everyone else. Personally, I'm willing to bet we will see more competition, better products and services, and lower prices if we let everyone else fight for it instead of giving it to AT&T to sit on and prevent competition.

    -Rick
  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7NO@SPAMkc.rr.com> on Friday July 13, 2007 @12:59PM (#19850443) Homepage
    AT&T forgot to mention how open access would increase competition and reduce their stranglehold on the market. We have been down this path before when AT&T was broken up, anyone old enough to remember having to essentially rent your phone from Ma Bell? AT&T and SBC managed to gobble up Ameritech, Southwestern Bell, Pacific Telesis, Bell Shouth and after merging themselves we are right back were we started, yet they have the nerve to call Google's request self-serving. Maybe its time for the FCC to wake up and realize that open access isnt going to inhibit growth, it will enhibit AT&T's version of growth which has always been expand and strangle out competition in markets they want to be in and own enough spectrum to make expansion into area's they may not even see as worthwhile difficult for anyone else to grab a foothold in.
  • Re:Yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Friday July 13, 2007 @12:59PM (#19850461) Homepage
    This is such a classic example of doing what's right for the overall good of the country, vs doing what's right for big financial contributors (telcoms, in this case). What's the right thing to do? Duh, total no brainer. I hope the FCC is given the freedom to do it's job for a change.
  • by jimicus (737525) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:08PM (#19850553)
    No kidding. Google are a freaking company, every request they make will be self serving in some way, even if it's not immediately apparent why.

    Or perhaps AT&T would like to suggest that they provide telephone services out of the goodness of their black little hearts?
  • Re:Summation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by metlin (258108) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:10PM (#19850585) Journal
    You forgot:

    PS: Attached is a check for a $LARGE amount of money and some wine for our buddies at the NSA.
  • by Afell001 (961697) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:12PM (#19850599)
    OK, I am all for fair competitive practices. But right now, in this country, there is nothing fair or competitive about wireless broadband. You have large monopolistic companies working in tight collusion with one another, fixing the price of "air". What AT&T (and Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, et al) are afraid of is someone (like Google) coming in over an "open" spectrum and offering the latest generation in broadband access without having to pay for legacy compatibility (ie, they don't have to maintain a network of antiquated technology just to service customers who are too cheap to upgrade). Just look at the standard wireless service model here in the US. If you want to access the latest generation of broadband, you have to buy the latest generation of phone and sign your name to a one or two year contract, since the wireless provider is obviously subsidizing the phone you are buy (obviously), because buying the phone from your wireless provider is prohibitively expensive unless you sign up or renew your contract, and if you do happen to buy one of those grey market unlocked phones you can find on the internet, you mysteriously don't have access to broadband through your wireless company, and they won't offer any support unless it's hardware you buy from them. Who is stifling innovation in the wireless broadband industry? The industry itself is stifling innovation under it's own model of capitalize once, and run it for profit until the public realizes they are getting peanuts at caviar prices compared to what they could be getting otherwise. This is why we are seeing emerging markets like Southeast Asia and China with better wireless networks than our supposedly developed US market. Stifling innovation? Why is Europe already using 3G technology and we have yet to roll out a comprehensive 2G technology in most major regions? Maybe it's about time to open up bandwidth to entrepreneurs who can make the wireless industry finally sit up and realize just how transparent their real intentions are.
  • by twitter (104583) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:13PM (#19850617) Homepage Journal

    We lose either way of course. Capitalism rocks.

    Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Google is absolutely angelic next to ATT and friends. Really though, the problem is not capitalism so much as it is corporate government interference. There would not be a problem if auctions were not rigged or did not exist to begin with. [slashdot.org]

  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:14PM (#19850627) Homepage Journal
    Speaking as a Internet user, it seems to me that any kind of telecom open-access is desirable. But telcos like AT&T have always opposed sharing their "last-mile" links. They've resisted being forced to share their telephone lines with independent DSL providers; they've resisted sharing their CATV cables with independent ISPs, and now they're resisting sharing their wireless spectrum. Business as usual.

    Their argument is that the government will get more money if we give them a monopoly. Which is certainly true: if they a monopoly, they make more money; if they make more money, they can afford to bid more for the spectrum.

    Very sound logic! We should apply it to other aspects of commerce. I propose that we legalize armed robbery, in exchange for bandits being required to pay hefty license fees. Imagine the revenue that would generate!
  • AT&T whining (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jshriverWVU (810740) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:22PM (#19850729)
    I'm not a troll really, but this really sounds like AT&T is whining. If google can do it, make money, then their business plan is better. But from AT&T's point of view I can see why they are upset, and they are just trying to protect themselves.

    This is really about the same as MS embedding IE to kill off other companies who were solely browser developers (Netscape?).

    I think the big different here, and I may stand corrected, is that google isn't doing it as a lost leader to lock someone in, but to better their product. So if that's the case I support it. Only time will tell though as things roll out.

  • I am so dam tired (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:30PM (#19850849)
    I am so dam tired of seeing public interest sold to the highest bidder. (including payed for legislation) Look around.. everything that should be for the public good is bought, monopolized, and ends up milking the public. I dont even read the articles any more.. I just figure out who has the most money or who has paid the lobbyist the most and that decides the issue. Follow the money and you will find the answer. I guess thats capitalism. Yay.
  • Re:Summation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikelieman (35628) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:31PM (#19850863) Homepage
    Dear Congress,

    Don't make us release the contents of your cellphone calls, landline calls, internet usage, and emails. STFU and do as you're told.

    Your Master,
    AT&T
  • Re:Yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mmeister (862972) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:35PM (#19850895)
    Don't forget, AT&T also claimed it would: >>> ..inhibit the growth of wireless broadband n the country. I think AT&T (and ALL the other wireless carriers) have done a great job of that already. Considering that the US is pathetically behind in broadband connections (both wired and wireless) compared with most other industrialized nations, it is time for our Gov't to start acting on behalf of the people and not just the corporations. We pay the most money for the least amount of bandwidth. Instead, we have a disjointed high-speed connection (that is most often capped and limited), the broadband that is available isn't compatible with other carriers, so they duplicate the same work to lock us in. Europeans have an open-access 3G connection that doesn't lock you into one carrier AND they only charge you from outgoing calls (meaning you don't pay twice). If competition alone would have us at the same point, I say let it rule -- but the fact is that we, the end consumer, suffer because it's about maximizing short term profits. These are our airwaves and to keep them locked up like AT&T would like will only insure that our nation will fall far behind in today's information age.
  • Re:Yeah right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Friday July 13, 2007 @01:53PM (#19851125)
    Neither of them is looking out for us. Google is no way doing this to make sure prices are low for broadband. They are doing it for profits and their shareholders. I would bet any benefit for users is temporary.

    Meanwhile, AT&T sees a lapse in the way they can gouge customers and don't like the potential hit to them. Plus it's another way they can slow down what they see as a major competitor.

    They are both looking out for themselves. Nobody else. Obviously if there aren't customers, they don't make money. That's the only thing that keeps either of them in line. But either of them would also squeeze you dry if they could. It's the American way.
  • Inhibit? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slapout (93640) on Friday July 13, 2007 @02:10PM (#19851335)
    "inhibit the growth of wireless broadband in the country"?

    It didn't think it could get much more inhibitted than it already is.
  • Re:Yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday July 13, 2007 @02:12PM (#19851371) Homepage Journal
    "Meanwhile, AT&T sees a lapse in the way they can gouge customers and don't like the potential hit to them. Plus it's another way they can slow down what they see as a major competitor."

    The thing is, it appears the way Martin has written his recommendation so far...that AT&T or Verizon, or anyone could buy one of the 6 geographical chunks...and block a nationwide competitive network. From the article:

    "Whether or not Google is readying to build a nationwide wireless network may be a moot argument. Martin's proposal reportedly contains provisions that would divide up the spectrum into six large geographic regions, rather than a single nationwide block. That would mean an incumbent operator could buy just one region to prevent such a network.

    There also, reportedly, is no language in the proposal that requires an auction winner to build a network at all. This means an incumbent could buy a regional spectrum merely as a way to block any such nationwide network."

    So, while this is all conjuncture at this point...there are some risks out there that could really blow it for the consumers in the US. I hope they do some serious thinking at the FCC before putting this out to bid...too bad the general public doesn't have a lobbiest we could all contribute to, to lobby for the general public's best interests!!!

  • by GeffDE (712146) on Friday July 13, 2007 @02:18PM (#19851435)
    I hate this about /.

    Capitalism is basically financial engineering: figure out a way to get "the most buck for your bang/product." In a lot of instances, the most cost-effective way to do that is to rig the playing field in your favor. Capitalism is premised on a Free Market; however, once a company is successful beyond a point, it gains the power to tie up the Invisible Hand (with monopoly practices, collusion, government interference, subsidies, etc.) and thereby destroy the Free Market*, which is how they rig the playing field in their favor. It is actually in the best interests of a corporation to not have a free market. They all want captive markets where they can wring as much profit as possible. Capitalism is the problem because it is capitalism that brought about corporate government interference in an effort to maximize profits. The other problem is that corporations do not give a fig about consumers (beyond the fact that they must be kept happy enough to keep consuming); it is, however, the government's sworn and bounden duty to protect its citizens, at least according to the principles espoused by John Locke, whose thinking, coincidentally, greatly influenced the Founding Fathers of the US.

    I'm so sick of all this libertarian "The Government Scares Me" tripe. The government scares me too, but when I look at what's bad in the government, it has all been brought about by powerful lobbies, the vast majority of which are corporations or industry groups. Those scare me so much more because in this day and age, they are (almost) effectively puppet-masters.


    However, I completely agree that this problem wouldn't exist if we didn't have auctions or we had completely fair auctions. And also that Google is much much better than AT&T. It's just the tired, fallible libertarian claptrap that gets to me. I'm sorry for venting on you; believe me, it's not personal.

    *As an aside, I find it ironic that /.ers don't like invisible hands that Create or Intelligently Design things, but are downright chummy with other invisible hands.
  • How the hell (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Cisco Kid (31490) * on Friday July 13, 2007 @02:24PM (#19851515)
    .. does requiring their use to be done in an open manner prevent AT&T from bidding on them?

    That AT&T doesnt want to do anything open is THEIR problem, and if they choose to spurn new spectrum if that is part of their requirement then that is there choice.

    We, the public, WANT open access wireless, we WANT there to be healthy and robust competition

    Take the iPhone. Now why Apple chose to let it be locked (at least until its hacked) into AT&T only for service I dont know. But there is no question why AT&T wanted it. And as far as I'm concerned it reduces the desirablity of an iPhone to below zero (at least until its fully hacked, *maybe*[ becuase maybe I'd like to get a device that is supposed to be open, as opposed to one that had to be hacked to be so])

    AT&T (and Verizon, and all the other monopoly-bells, and hell Microsoft, and Yahoo[although they are in bed with AT&T anyway]) only whine about Google becuase Google might actually have the balls and the cash to do what people want, and to begin to put just the tiniest crack into the monopoly telecom and computing monopolies.

    And Google is NOT a monopoly. I cant think of any instance where one person (or company) choosing to use any of Google's services or products makes it impossible for someone else to communicate or do business with them to use anything other than Google (Im talking about proprietary non-standard undocumented MS file formats and network protocols here), nor are there any cases where Google has exclusive control over some critical resources that the existence of was financed by regulated non-competition (I'm talking about last mile copper here) that prevents anyone else from using it.
  • by Some_Llama (763766) on Friday July 13, 2007 @02:50PM (#19851785) Homepage Journal
    "Has Doublespeak really creeped up on us that quickly?"

    Well, as in all things, you have to consider the source.. what is the primary focus of PR and Marketing (the only 2 groups who actually are allowed to speak for a company)?

    PR is there to make a company's image more palatable or smooth over indiscretions. If people liked the company already or had no indiscretions then this would not be needed.. so it must be that PR is just lying to make a company look good.

    Marketing is to make people desire your product, if people needed your product they would desire it already, so marketing is just a way to manipulate people into buying things..

    If manipulation and deceit are your bread and butter then is it so surprising that doublespeak would be the language of the trade?
  • by GeffDE (712146) on Friday July 13, 2007 @02:58PM (#19851859)
    Wrong! I don't confuse Libertarians and Republicans.

    Libertarianism is about no government interference in anything, especially the lives of citizens. I said nothing about Libertarians wanting big government. However, the idea that "everything is better is the government does nothing" is Libertarian, and in this case, not supported by facts. I am all for a complete lack of lobbying, and a reasonable restriction on laws and a flourishing of a citizen's right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness unhindered by undue governance. My point was that capitalistic entities will try to subvert a fair market; libertarians believe that the government should touch nothing, including the economy. That what was the OP said: the problem stems from the government holding an unfair auction. And I say that is not true. If you want to preserve a truly fair market, there needs to be some empowered entity that will work against those agents which try to turn the market to their advantage.
  • Re:Yeah right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by a_nonamiss (743253) on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:02PM (#19851907)
    I agree in theory, but if the FCC didn't regulate the airwaves, then it would be too easy for your competition to just jam you. Or else, everyone would try to use the same frequencies and the end result would be that nobody could use anything.

    In my opinion, The FCC is one of the few government regulatory bodies that actually serve a reasonable purpose.

    Now, in the current climate, they have overstepped those bounds by an order of magnitude. (In the form of censoring the airwaves.) However, that was never their original purpose.
  • Re:Yeah right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ajs (35943) <ajs@@@ajs...com> on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:19PM (#19852087) Homepage Journal

    Neither of them is looking out for us. Google is no way doing this to make sure prices are low for broadband. They are doing it for profits and their shareholders. I would bet any benefit for users is temporary.
    Like the benefit from their text-only advertising on search results (something Slashdot posters claimed would be temporary years ago)?

    Like the benefit from their free mail service which gave users more storage than any other service on the market, forcing other vendors to improve their offerings?

    Like the benefit from their continued contributions to open source software projects over the years (in terms of developers, contributed code, contributed subsystems, advocacy, financial support, sponsored development, etc.)?

    How much more than every other company does Google have to do before folks like you will even notice? If we spent half as much time finding fault with AT&T, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
  • by OnlineAlias (828288) on Friday July 13, 2007 @03:51PM (#19852429)

    The incumbents (AT+T, Sprint and Verizon) cry and scream every time anyone says anything about opening up the spectrum. They will lie, cheat and steal to make sure that no one can set up shop on that spectrum and not pay the incumbents for it.

    There is a perfect example of their outright lying right in this quote. The incumbents say doing it Google's way will devalue the spectrum itself. They say that it will cost the taxpayers billions if Google gets it way.

    Wrong.

    Every time, they say this very same thing in an effort to scare the committee into thinking that they won't get those billions from the incumbents, knowing all the while that the committee has strong political pressure to get the most money out of the auction that they can (even the US governement notices 15 or 20 billion dollars).

    Not only is it a lie about devaluing the spectrum (after all, if it is devalued, why would they care to buy it?) but it is a lie about who is going to lose money. The money for the auction goes to the government, not the taxpayers. The "taxpayer" in the end gets nothing but higher cellular bills due to lack of competition...in fact, the incumbents aim is to buy up all the spectrum and pave over it with a parking lot, which makes sure no one will ever be able to use it.

    Take it from me, a guy very close to this industry. Google is certainly not the evil ones here.
  • Ad Revenue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phildo420 (827619) on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:14PM (#19853237)
    Look at it this way --

    Google's goal is to get EVERYONE online, because they make revenue on search ads. If there are more people online, they get to charge more for ads. It must appear to them that providing internet access will cost less than the improved ad-income they will earn.

    AT&T, on the other hand, sells internet access -- not advertising space. All their income comes from the cost to join an infrastructure. They want to maintain barriers to entry that keep the industry a monopoly/oligopoly rather than a more open market.

    Ultimately -- both firms are looking out for their VIPs, the shareholders.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:40PM (#19853501)
    Minarchist libertarians believe that government should do two things: 0) protect people from force and fraud; 1) enforce contracts. Notice I didn't say "break up monopolies." Other libertarians (the anarcho-capitalists) believe we don't need any government at all, that the free market can solve all problems (up to and including the national defense). But the libertarians have not managed to convince the common people that we need a much smaller government. This is one of the issues why:

    In the long run, a completely free market does not need government to break up monopolies. But people hate the long run. That's why we have antitrust laws. People don't want to wait for the monopoly to get broken up naturally. Or they don't believe it will happen.

    Consider IBM. The masterful lawyer-fu that IBM brought to bear tied up the government antitrust guys in loopholes and red tape; in the end, the Reagan administration just shut down the whole thing, writing it off as a loss. (Or, those horrible Reagan guys hate the common Americans and betrayed them to IBM, if your politics swing that way. Fine with me, I don't care, whatever.) So, IBM is still a huge horrible monopoly right? Oh wait, not so much. The world changed under IBM's feet. They used to own everything, the lion's share of the mainframe market, the mini market, and even the PC market. ("PC" used to mean "IBM PC"; compatible machines from other companies were called "IBM PC compatibles" or even "clones".)

    In the long run, the world changes, and the monopolies are hard-pressed to stay on top. History is littered with corpses of big monopolies that didn't change fast enough with the times.

    And the really bad monopolies all used government power to enforce their monopoly. In a libertarian society, the government wouldn't have the power to favor big business.

    The more power the government has, the more important it is for a big company to keep the government in its pocket, and the more valuable government corruption becomes.

    One last point. Consider a small town with one general store. That general store has a "natural monopoly"; it's not worth it for another general store to set up nearby, because there isn't enough business for two stores, and the established location has an advantage (satisfied customers over years). Not all monopolies are bad.

    I'd argue that Google basically has a monopoly in search (it certainly has the lion's share) but this is more like that one general store in a town and less like Standard Oil (or AT&T). If Google stopped providing the best service, they could lose their position in a short time (like actually happened to IBM). I'm not worried about Google; they will only hold their position in search as long as they deserve it.
  • Re:Yeah right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mmeister (862972) on Friday July 13, 2007 @06:06PM (#19853739)
    True, it is more cost effective to roll out the technology in higher density areas -- but there are plenty of high density areas (West Coast: California, Portland, Seattle ; the whole East Coast) that should have better speeds, but they don't.

    Ultimately it goes back to what I was saying, companies are looking for how they can put forth the smallest amount of capital for the highest return. Since they have a virtual monopoly (at max a dualopoly), there is no need to put forth anything but the minimal effort because you know you'll get that customer if he/she wants any kind of bandwidth.
  • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tthomas48 (180798) on Monday July 16, 2007 @01:18PM (#19878209) Homepage
    If AT&T said, "deprive taxpayers of billions of dollars, and inhibit the growth of wireless broadband in the country." We know three things for sure:

    1) Taxpayers will make billions of dollars off of this plan.
    2) Wireless Broadband will explode across the country
    3) You will not pay 50% of your bill in fees.

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