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Secret bidder delivers 'open access' to US airwaves

And Eric Schmidt will die in 2039

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As the US Federal Communications Commission auctions off the coveted 700-MHz "C Block" - a prime portion of the American airwaves - bidding has topped $4.6bn. And that's a key number.

$4.6bn is the "reserve price" for the C Block, and now that the FCC has at least that much in hand, we can be sure this juicy slice of wireless spectrum will include an "open access" requirement - a much-discussed clause that says the winning bidder must allow access to any device and any application.

What we don't know is which bidder triggered the open access clause. This is a secret auction. But we're guessing it was Google.

Google was one of the loudest voices calling for open access, and at one point, the world's largest search engine said it was prepared to lay down the full $4.6bn.

Bidding passed the reserve price this morning, in round seventeen of the FCC auction, when the C Block price hit $4.7bn. There were no bids during the previous three rounds, as the price stagnated at $4.3bn.

Chances are, Google is battling Verizon for the rights to 700-MHz C Block, but some Reg readers believe that AT&T will make a play as well. When it comes to the 700-MHz band, AT&T has been much quieter than Verizon over the past several months, but like Verizon, it recently made a point of saying it adores open access. When AT&T starts behaving like that, you know something's up.

Of course, Verizon has acted in even more ridiculous ways. First, it threw a US appeals court at the FCC, tying to get the open access requirement removed. Then it said it's current network would be open by the end of the year.

If AT&T or Verizon wins the C Block, we question how open the airwaves will truly be. But one thing's for sure: Whoever wins the block, they'll be prone to ridiculous behavior.

Example? Sure.

According to an interview in Fortune, Google's head honchos - co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt - have promised to be business buddies until 2024.

Fortune: "Will you all work at Google for the rest of your careers?"

Schmidt: "We agreed to work together for how long, gentlemen?"

Brin: "Twenty years."

Fortune: "Really? When did you make that agreement?"

Schmidt: "Two years, seven months, and four days ago. But who's counting? Actually, we agreed the month before we went public that we would work together for 20 years. I will be 69, and according to Google I'm going to live to 84, so I should be fine."

So, the US airwaves may soon be in the hands of a company that claims to know when people are going to die. ®

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