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Is Google on Crack?

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This week I was supposed to explain why U.S. broadband prices are so much higher and U.S. broadband speeds are so much lower than in most other developed countries, but then Google made an unexpected reckless move in the wireless bandwidth market and here I am trying to explain it. We'll get back to broadband prices shortly, but for now let's turn to Google, whose stock may very well have already peaked.

What has me all worked up is Google's announcement this week that it intends to bid at least $4.6 billion in the Federal Communication Commission's auction of bandwidth in the 700-MHz band being reclaimed in 2009 from analog television. The auction price can and probably will go a lot higher than that, but $4.6 billion is the reserve price, so Google is saying it will unilaterally make sure the auction is successful and the spectrum is reallocated... IF certain conditions are met.

Google "requested that the Commission should extend to all CMRS-type spectrum licensees clearly delineated, explicitly enforceable, and unwavering obligations to provide (1) open applications, (2) open devices, (3) open wholesale services, and (4) open network access." For those of us who don't regularly hang with the FCC these proposed conditions mean: 1) users should be able to download software from anywhere and use it on their communication devices without restriction; 2) users should be able to use any communication device that meets the technical requirements for connecting to the network no matter who made the device; 3) third-party resellers should be able to buy wholesale bandwidth from auction winners, and; 4) other networks should be able to connect to the 700-MHz network.

Frankly, I see Google heading for a big loss on this one.

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