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Google Power Technology

Google Applies To Become Energy Marketer 160

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-aren't-they-doing-now dept.
necro81 writes "Google consumes massive amounts of electrical energy to power its data centers across the country and world. Now it has created a subsidiary, Google Energy LLC, and applied (pdf) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to become a utility-scale energy trader. Google's stated aim is to be able to purchase renewable energy directly from producers at bulk rates, pursuing its goal of becoming carbon neutral. It is likely that Google Energy would also permit Google's own renewable energy projects to sell their energy at more favorable rates. Google reportedly does not have plans to actively become an energy broker, a la Enron."
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Google Applies To Become Energy Marketer

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  • Uh huh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 08, 2010 @11:33AM (#30696022) Homepage Journal

    Google also didn't have plans to make an operating system, a phone, a phone os, an instant messenger, a usenet application or a social network.

    So yeah, this isn't Genron. Really.

  • by d474 (695126) on Friday January 08, 2010 @11:37AM (#30696084)
    ...about Google's "Smart Meter" [google.org] for your home. It seems like Google wants to know everything about everybody. The only difference between them and other entities that what this much information is that Google's gradually arriving to that goal.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      ...about Google's "Smart Meter" [google.org] for your home.

      Never forget Google's main money maker is not search, it is not ads and it is not applications. It is data and the statistics that are derived from that data. On top of those statistics they build the best search, the best targeted advertising and decent applications (because although they are good applications Google Docs doesn't really benefit from these statistics). There are people looking around for horizontal integration for data and statistics in all forms of our lives because that's largely an u

      • Never forget Google's main money maker is not search, it is not ads and it is not applications. It is data and the statistics that are derived from that data.

        Citation, please? Their shareholder prospectus says 97% of their revenue is from AdWords.

        Why do you believe otherwise?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ArsonSmith (13997)

          Car analogy:

          That's like saying the gas pedal is what makes the car go. Sure for 97% of drivers that's all that maters, but the real power comes from the mechanically complex portion under the hood.

        • What the... Same thing! Duh!

          They earn money from targeted ads, called AdWords. Which are targeted to very specific groups with the use of that data. Good marketing is cost-effective, because it only costs money for being shown to people who would actually pay for it.
          That’s why the data is valuable, and therefore gives AdWords a value much higher than plain showing ads to everybody.

        • by dfdashh (1060546)
          Agreed. s/money maker/inimitable resource/.
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        Never forget Google's main money maker is not search, it is not ads and it is not applications.

        Actually it's ads. Sorry, you're plain wrong here.

        On top of those statistics they build the best search, the best targeted advertising

        Google doesn't have the best targeted advertising. Theirs isn't bad, but it's not the best by a long shot. The only reason it's even in the running is because they bought DoubleClick-- before that acquisition, they had basically jack for targeting. (Outside of Gmail.)

    • by D Ninja (825055) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:03PM (#30696456)

      It seems like Google wants to know everything about everybody

      Of course. That's never been a secret. Right from Google's Corporate Mission [google.com] page it says:

      The name [Google] reflects the immense volume of information that exists, and the scope of Google's mission: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

      It only stands to reason that in order to organize the world's information, you have to know the information in the first place. Whether you think this is a good or bad thing is up to you to decide.

    • by ubrgeek (679399)
      For a few years now I've been saying Google will ultimately build a real world "planned community." They've been acquiring/building the right stuff for years: Energy, home entertainment (via YouTube's infrastructure), telephony (Google instant messenger and their new cellphone) bikes on their headquarters campus, biodiesel shuttles, etc. etc. Even their VC component (google.org) says, "What is the focus of the fund? Google Ventures is broadly interested in startups in industries including consumer Internet,
    • All Data should be FREE!!! Except for My Data!

    • We have a word for that in German: Datenkrake.
      Fits pretty well in English too: Data kraken.

      Wants to get its hands on so many things, that it has developed tentacles. ;)

  • by v1 (525388) on Friday January 08, 2010 @11:38AM (#30696108) Homepage Journal

    Google reportedly does not have plans to actively become an energy broker, a la Enron."

    I rather doubt anyone has plans to be "a la Enron"

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)

      how about an "A la, peanut butter sandwich"?

      No, I have no idea why the sesame street memory just popped up.

    • Not? I thought that was what the media (reproduction and artist extortion) industry was straight headed for...

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 08, 2010 @11:38AM (#30696114) Journal
    Short disclaimer, I'm not an economist so what follows is largely my own opinion and prediction.

    Google's stated aim is to be able to purchase renewable energy directly from producers at bulk rates, pursuing its goal of becoming carbon neutral.

    Some quick observations about Iowa. Back in 2008, we covered Microsoft and Google opening up half billion dollar server farms [slashdot.org] in this state because energy was supposedly cheaper there and tax incentives. Now, if you look at the year end totals [windpoweringamerica.gov] for Iowa's wind power capacity in MW you'll notice that through 2008 it jumped higher than any other year going from 1,273 to 2,791. It more than doubled. At the end of 2009 it was at 2,862 -- perhaps a result of the recession -- but also indicative of what's going on in the state. Put two and two together and I think it's obvious that wind power companies were looking to work with Google and were maybe even encouraged by Google.

    You know, I was really glad to see this sort of thing happen. It was something that Google could spend money doing that would boost shareholder value while at the same time incentivizing companies to invest billions in wind power in Iowa with a lengthy ten year or more plan to gain that money back before they start to turn serious profits. If Google gets these wind power plants up and running, ten years from now we the consumers might be enjoying a price war between wind power fields generating electricity on equipment that has been paid for and now just needs maintenance fees. Think about it, a whole infrastructure springing up on Google's promises and investor's dimes being slowly amortized back up to very profitable and freaking awesome for ma and pa corn grower. The economy would go nuts if you could alleviate energy costs for everyone. In addition to the slow and welcomed change, the industries that will be negatively affected (coal, gas, etc) by these price wars will have the time to realize and change or better yet invest in their own wind farms. If this model is proven successful, tornado alley could in fifty years become the new middle east and we'll be fighting wind wars over South Dakota and Kansas.

    Now, back to the story, this vertical integration strategy is awesome for the company but I don't like it for two reasons. 1) In my opinion it is a step down the path to a weak version of a monopoly and competition deterrent 2) If Google influences these companies too much or worse buys them out, we might never see a price war I mentioned above. These are distant fears and after the Ma Bell and Microsoft monopolies/anti-trusts/Sherman Act prosecutions, I trust the DoJ won't sit idly by if point one or two become uncomfortable truths.

    Google reportedly does not have plans to actively become an energy broker, a la Enron.

    That kind of reassures me.

    Overly optimistic? Of course. A little unrealistic? Well, a man can dream, can't he? A man can dream.

    • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday January 08, 2010 @11:49AM (#30696262)

      Put two and two together and I think it's obvious that wind power companies were looking to work with Google and were maybe even encouraged by Google.

      The Power company in Green Bay, WI spent a few hundred million building a wind farm in Iowa (a few hundred miles away). There is a new law here that power companies have to have a certain percentage of their power renewable. Since the wind doesn't blow as much in Green Bay (if only they could get power from the cold, or the hatred of Brett Farve and the Vikings), it is cheaper and easier for them to build it in Iowa, then sell it, over the transmission networks, to themselves.

      • by afidel (530433)
        That's kind of crazy since Lake Michigan is among the strongest wind sites near a population center in the entire country. I guess the tech for building the towers in a few hundred feet of water is still too expensive to offset the significant cost of building up the transmission infrastructure in the middle of Iowa fields.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)

      With any luck, it will become economically stupid for people living in northern Minnesota to not put solar panels on their roof.

      (It is already vaguely reasonable for people in sunny areas to do so)

    • by rickb928 (945187) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:14PM (#30696642) Homepage Journal

      I lunch with an economist. You and I are not economists. But he's teaching me.

      "Google's stated aim is to be able to purchase renewable energy directly from producers at bulk rates, pursuing its goal of becoming carbon neutral."

      Sure. price has nothing to do with it. Uhuh. Color me cynical.

      "ten years from now we the consumers might be enjoying a price war between wind power fields generating electricity on equipment that has been paid for and now just needs maintenance fees."

      Same argument for nuclear power in the 60s. 'too cheap to meter'. I predict the same results for windpewer.

      "slowly amortized back up to very profitable and freaking awesome for ma and pa corn grower. The economy would go nuts if you could alleviate energy costs for everyone."

      Price has little to do with cost. It is the market. If oil- and coal-generated electicity is sold for 14/kwh, nuclear power can sell for the same, no problem. Why would windpower outfits sell for less than, say, 11/kwh? They are leaving money on the table. Not many corporations do that.

      "industries that will be negatively affected (coal, gas, etc) by these price wars will have the time to realize and change or better yet invest in their own wind farms"

      Or different petroleum supplies. Or nuclear. Or something else. Don't think they will choose for any other reason than profits.

      "tornado alley could in fifty years become the new middle east and we'll be fighting wind wars over South Dakota and Kansas."

      Um, California, Iowa, and a lot of other places have more potential. The wars in South Dakota and Kansas will be over migratory birds and turbine kills, noise (even in the middle nowhere, trust me on this), and the blight. Billboards are bad enough. Wind turbines are not pretty to everyone.

      "Overly optimistic? Of course. A little unrealistic? Well, a man can dream, can't he? A man can dream."

      Cling to your optimism. If it is all you have left, they can't take it away from you. Of course, you can give up. I just howe you don't.

      • "ten years from now we the consumers might be enjoying a price war between wind power fields generating electricity on equipment that has been paid for and now just needs maintenance fees."

        Same argument for nuclear power in the 60s. 'too cheap to meter'. I predict the same results for windpewer.

        Everything's got problems. And wind power isn't going to be our only solution. T. Boone Pickens demonstrated someone getting in too far over their head too fast in this market [slashdot.org]. I really wish he would explain to everyone what went wrong with his plans. Who knows? The cement for the bases could get too expensive? The farmers in Iowa that selling small plots of land for what looks like a lot of money to have a wind mill in the corner of your field might wise up, form a coalition and start gouging. The c

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rickb928 (945187)

          Well, the argument about windpower having less impact than nuclear is interesting. Of course, hydro power in the east may have been the single most damaging presusre on Atlantic Salmon, denying access to spawning grounds just as they were being overfished. Hydro power is by no means low impact, but we tolerated it. Can I propose that hydro has caused much more environmental damange then nuclear worldwide, including Three Mile Island and Chernoby? Of course, hydro has a head start, so this may be unfair o

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by SydShamino (547793)

          T. Boone Pickens demonstrated someone getting in too far over their head too fast in this market [slashdot.org]. I really wish he would explain to everyone what went wrong with his plans. Who knows? The cement for the bases could get too expensive?

          He tried to change Texas law so that the water supply corporation he owned in the Texas panhandle would be able to use eminent domain to take land on a corridor to Dallas/Fort Worth, so as to convey the wind power. Oh, and he could use the same corridor to convey water from the panhandle to DFW as well.

          In all those wind power ads and interviews you saw, he never did mention the fact that he owned significant water rights in the Texas panhandle, and just needed a route to pipe that water to major cities to

          • by Hadlock (143607)

            DFW, or cities around DFW? DFW gets all its water from Texhoma, lake lavon, lake ray hubbard, and on the fort worth side you have eagle mountain lake, lake worth and other lakes in that chain of reservoirs.

      • Billboards are bad enough. Wind turbines are not pretty to everyone.

        The difference between the two is that turbines are actually useful for something.

        On a personal side, I actually do find the look of wind turbines rather aesthetically pleasing.

      • Price has little to do with cost. It is the market. If oil- and coal-generated electicity is sold for 14/kwh, nuclear power can sell for the same, no problem. Why would windpower outfits sell for less than, say, 11/kwh? They are leaving money on the table. Not many corporations do that.

        The point is that a heap of extra generating capacity with a low cost floor will drive prices down in the market. If a given industry or in this case generation method is SO profitable, everybody else piles in and invests in it, increasing capacity until the sale price achieves an 'average' level of profit.

        The question you should be asking is "if wind power costs 4/kWh to generate, who will buy coal power at 14/kWh when wind can sell profitably at 6/kWh?". This situation depends though on a large amount of

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cheesybagel (670288)

        Shows how much you (or your economist friend) know about the energy market. Utilities do not burn [doe.gov] petroleum (oil) in any significant fashion to generate electricity. There was this little thing called the 1973 oil [wikipedia.org] crisis which made it too expensive to use for utility level electricity generation.

        When people talk about "gas" power generation they are talking about natural gas. You know, methane. CH4. Not oil.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by rickb928 (945187)

          Where does natural gas come from?

          Oil wells and coal. Infinitesmal amounts of biogas.

          I rest my case. Your turn.

          • You can also find gold quite often in veins of quartz. Is gold quartz?
            • by rickb928 (945187)

              Is this the hair you want to split? Let it go.

              • The economics discussion was just too fallacious to be interesting. If things were as you say, prices for anything would never drop significantly. They do because cost matters. Margins matter. There is no monopoly on wind power generation. There are less regulations for wind than required to build a nuclear reactor as well. If someone was getting incredible margins a dozen more would build extra capacity to compete.

                Sure Google is interested in cheaper costs. But there are other issues at play. Politics ca

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by rickb928 (945187)

                  Cost and margin matter the most when disruptive influences impact a market. So far, there is no disruptor in the music player market - iPods rule the market, and the Zune is not undercutting the iPod pricing. Now, if someone could come out with a iPhone-quality device at half the price, maybe, but the reality is that that market is also ruled by the music sources. iTunes is really what sets the iPod prices.

                  If some pasta company, for example, decided to cut prices 40% and outlast their competition, they m

        • Using a natural gas plant to power a server farm would also be moronic, considering that the power demand is constant, and highly predictable. The air conditioners are the only devices that do not have a constant rate of consumption.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ottothecow (600101)
        Price has little to do with cost. It is the market. If oil- and coal-generated electicity is sold for 14/kwh, nuclear power can sell for the same, no problem. Why would windpower outfits sell for less than, say, 11/kwh? They are leaving money on the table. Not many corporations do that.

        Just a quick note on how this works (you are absolutely right). All electricity is bulk purchased from the generators for the same price. The price scales based on demand. The power generators submit minimum bids that t

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Of course they worked with google, and MS, and anyone else who is putting in something that consumes a lot of electricty. It's patently obvious.

      SO what if Google becomes an energy broker? it eill be one of many, and have to play by the rules.

      "tornado alley could in fifty years become the new middle eas"

      hahahaha, except there is a problem, Tornadoes wreck havoc on windmills.

      Wind is a poor general solution to the energy situation.

      IFrs and Industrial Solar Thermal are the best options for base power right now.

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Wind is a poor general solution to the energy situation.

        Texas is well on it's way to meeting it's goal of producing 10% of it's total power via renewable energy. Most of that is wind power. I doubt it would ever top 35% here in Texas, but once the turbines are built and paid off, it's basically "too cheap to meter". 35% is nothing to sneeze at.

  • Is a great way of increasing your control over society.

    If you want to take over the world you need people who rely on you not only for internet search but more basic things like energy, food, communications (like all the fibre optic cables Google controls)

    Right now if google went away I'd just go back to using yahoo for search, my life won't change much but if Google does all your computing for you in De Cloud via HTTP, supplies you with power and internet (Google TiSP), organises your transport via
    • by Shatrat (855151)

      like all the fibre optic cables Google controls

      Google is not a major player in telecom, go ahead and nix that out of your conspiracy theories.
      Interstate fiber is controlled by traditional telecom companies that you have heard of and many that you haven't.
      Names like Verizon, AT&T, Qwest, Level 3, US Signal, and Zayo come to mind.
      I know there were rumors of google buying up dark fiber a while back, but the fiber is pretty useless if you don't have a presence in all the central offices along the routes.
      It might be useful along metro routes to connec

    • I agree this move is probably to offer more comprehensive hosting services in the future as well as try and cheapen their own costs. But the whole "control over society" bit is out there. For better or for worse they're just a company looking out for that bottom line. I don't think they're trying to be the federal gov't as you seem to be suggesting.
  • if at Ballmers next team talk all the employees pulled out their Nexus Ones to photograph him.

  • by Laxator2 (973549) on Friday January 08, 2010 @11:55AM (#30696346)
    I worked in the energy market, specifically in electricity (not as a trader). First, Enron pretty much invented the market for electricity ("power trading"), it was the (mis)management that sunk the company. The problem with renewables, and wind in particular, is the unpredictability. You can end up with a lot of power delivered to you and you may end up paying somebody to get rid of it, as you cannot consume it all. So if Google wants to buy wind power for its own consumption, it makes all the sense in the world to enter the market and trade as well.
  • by retech (1228598) on Friday January 08, 2010 @11:56AM (#30696370)
    If you type "google" into google it'll break the internet.
    • Smoke and Mirrors [2.5]

      John: I don't think that's true.
      Jen: With all due respect John, I am the head of IT and I have it on good authority. If you type "Google" into Google, you can break the Internet. So please, no one try it, even for a joke. (the executives laugh) It's not a laughing matter. You can break the Internet!

      http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_IT_Crowd [wikiquote.org]

      The third season is really great if you didn't catch it.

    • What is truly amazing/sad is how often people do this [google.com].
      • Is that including other words in the search? I quite often use the Google search engine to find other Google products. Somewhat ironically, it's not very good at it...
  • Yes, I know the "Do no evil" thing... and who really believes it's not actually "Do no evil [to our shareholders]"?

    But Google is beginning to sprawl into some extremely creative areas and the amount of data it can collect on people is probably among the most detailed of any single entity out there. I actually don't know how close Google is to any given government or government agency or what its compliance history is with its decisions to comply with [morally] questionable requests made by government, but

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Since Google has done things that shareholder weren't happy about. In fact, the put tons of resources into areas that aren't in line with the current shareholder mentality of most corporation. i.e. RnD

    • by rajafarian (49150)

      They may have the best intentions in the world but when our government goes in and asks for information, well, I don't think Uncle Sam thinks it even has to ask. Of course, it's wrong, it does have to ask, but our Fed government has become the biggest, baddest, mutha fucking bully on the entire planet and I think Google will only be able to fight them off so much.

  • Energy is out there (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yoshi_mon (172895) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:03PM (#30696460)

    The more I think about it, from a physicist POV, energy is always out there. It's waiting for us to tap it.

    If Google want's to use it's resources to try and tap some of the energy that is out there, and in a way that is good for our planet/society, I say game on.

  • by tomcode (261182) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:16PM (#30696672)

    Does this mean every time I turn on a lamp I'm going to get hit with half a dozen ads for matching coffee tables?

    Or should I just flip the light switch marked "I'm feeling lucky?"

  • Build an industrial solar thermal plant right next to it,
    Sell excess energy.

    Hell, take a billion and build a 50 Gw IST array.

  • Everywhere i read i see posts from astroturfers pretending to be very concerned about their privacy. Lambasting Google for all they are worth and trying to purport them as a very evil and vile company.

    The thing is, Google hasnt got half of the information many other sources has like twitter, facebook etc. The problem isnt that Google has access to vast amount of data. To provide good search technology and ad placement they have to analyze things, just like every other ad network does, like Microsofts for eg.

    The problem isnt Google or Microsoft Bing but rather that the governments can demand any and all information about you at a whim. Not just from Google but from your bank, healtcare, utilities, ISP, telephone companies, other sites etc etc. If the information about your searches etc isnt at google its somewhere else. The only way to avoid getting stuff logged is to get off the net.

    This problem is so easy to understand that its blatantly clear that this is all part of a campaign to paint Google as an evil company. Instead you should put pressure on the politicians to stop snooping into your life and write strong privacy laws. A small number of people are so stupid they fall for the Microsoft astroturfing but one would think people on slashdot would understand perfectly whats going on.

    • by Adambomb (118938) on Friday January 08, 2010 @01:30PM (#30697766) Journal

      This problem is so easy to understand that its blatantly clear that this is all part of a campaign to paint Google as an evil company.

      Personally, i think it has more to do with people seeing the story before them and knee-jerk reacting to it. Google analyzes a lot of data and has a lot of information based on it yes, so when it comes up in conversation the paranoia kicks in and the diatribes come out. I don't think it has anything to do with any organized campaign against google in any sense of it. They are not doing the same for the more obvious cases of concern because 1. they're used to those and 2. they are not being raised as the topic of conversation.

      It is a rather common exploitable bit of human psychology that people react this way. It's kinda like how the media had america in a huge pep rally shouting match over privatized insurance versus government run insurance, when all the while no one was discussing the real problem that is that health care pricing is through the roof in america. Everyone was used to it being so expensive and no one was discussing the cost, so everyone ranted about how it was going to be paid instead.

  • The way things are starting to look, I would be surprised if in a few years all Google employees are to be given guns and told to be on the lookout for a suave, British spy.

  • So now there's General Electric (GE), and looks like Google wants to have Google Energy (GE). I wonder if they two will overlap?

    Looks like Google is more affectionate towards becoming the next General Electric than IBM or Microsoft. Needless to say, General Electric has quite the history - several decades longer than IBM's (1850's vs. 1890's). In Google's short history (1990's to present) they seem to have diversified the company quite fast into numerous markets - more along the lines of how General Elec
  • If you have yet to read into the history of Enron, then better jump into a wiki or the newsies and dig. Enron's books were cooked to the point they were past charcoal. Power corrupts, but cash corrupts all, both weak and strong. If Google turns into one such brokerage, I hope that they keep a tight reign on their cash flow.

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Friday January 08, 2010 @01:22PM (#30697654) Journal

    Man, I completely don't remember, now, where I saw this, but I remember seeing a clip at the beginning of a comedy movie from like the 1940 or 1950's or something, where one guy is sent out by his wife to sell pies, and he meets a friend, and they get to talking (while the 'friend' starts eating the pies that are supposed to be sold), and they start up a discussion where they talk about starting a pie company.

    As the discussion goes along, the guy who was gonna start the pie company decides that, in order to keep his costs down, and to generate additional revenue streams, he's gonna buy steel mills (for the metal to make the pie tins from), flour mills, wheat farms and sugar cane plantations, a paper company, a printer (to print labels and advertising), railroads (cheaper shipping around the country), telephone companies, banks - basically, the guy decides he needs to buy the whole economy so that he can get the best price on every product and service which is even peripherally associated with making and selling pies.

    Google Energy, LLC just brought that to mind. Not saying it's a bad idea, but by the time they're done, Google is either going to be broke, or buy everything.

  • If they will push more low to zero carbon energy, they can make it cheaper. As it is, they are backing potter drilling. Find locations Colorado or Wyoming that are away from large buildings and do the geo-thermal energy.

    Likewise, it would be good if they bought some old coal plants and convert them to natural gas combined with Solar Thermal.

    Basically, Google can help push our society where it fights heading.
  • How long before Google declares sovereignty?

    Seriously. They own an airstrip. They own what amounts to a public transit system. They own scads of land. They have what amounts to a treasury. Now they want to become an electrical power utility. What's missing?

  • Read all the little bits, people...

    2005: Google starts buying up dark fiber. [cnet.com]

    2007: Google buying land in middle of nowhere, near power stations, building data centers. [datacenterknowledge.com]

    Now throw in GoogleTalk, Wave, Phone, Chrome, Android...and now the Nexus-1?

    My hypothesis for the next 5 years of Google:

    1. Become an ISP, like ComCast, TimeWarner, etc...
    2. Become a telco like Qwest, Verizon, AT&T, etc...
    3. Become a broadcaster like ABC, NBC, FOX, etc...
    4. Become a wireless provider like T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, e

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