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Google questions Verizon 'open network'

A closed door is not open

Google wants to make darn sure that when Verizon opens up its wireless network, it actually opens up its wireless network.

In a new petition (PDF) to the US Federal Communications Commission, the world's largest search engine questions whether Verizon is planning to sidestep the commission's new open access rules, urging Kevin Martin and crew to put an extra clamp on the mega telco.

Thanks to some heavy lobbying from Google and friends, the FCC has attached an open access requirement to the so-called 700-MHz C Block, a prime portion of the US airwaves auctioned off earlier this year. Verizon ended up winning the auction with bids totaling more than $4.7bn, and in theory, it must open the block to any device and any application. But Verizon has spent many years keeping its world as closed as possible.

Yes, Verizon has told everyone it will open up its entire network by the end of the year. But Google wonders if its rival is playing fast and loose with the word open.

In previous FCC filings, Verizon has advocated a so-called "two door" open access policy where open access doesn't apply to Verizon-sold phones, and Google argues that this sort of open access policy is less than open.

"Verizon has taken the public position that it may exclude its handsets from the open access condition," Google's petition reads. "Verizon believes it may force customers who want to access the open platform using a device not purchased from Verizon to go through 'Door No. 1,' while allowing customers who obtain their device from Verizon access through 'Door No. 2.' As Google previously made clear, Verizon’s position would completely reverse the meaning of the rule such that the open access condition would apply to none of Verizon’s customers, and thereby render the condition a nullity."

So, Google wants the FCC to order Verizon to refrain from such a two-door policy, which the telco has failed to publicly disavow. Judging from FCC boss Kevin Martin's comments at last month's CTIA wireless trade show - and his general politics - we seriously doubt such an order will ever arrive. ®

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