Or indeed, vice versa? Much of the discussion around Google's open letter
to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin on 700MHz spectrum focuses on the impending battle between the former search engine and incumbent telcos. It can only be good news that an alternative competitor to dominant communications providers might emerge with the coming wave of spectrum sales. Whether Google will offer as "open" an alternative as any other potential bidder is debatable. "Open" is a word I normally treat with extreme caution, particularly when it comes to issues relating to network access and technology standards.
What seems to be ignored is that Google has put some of its considerable weight behind the cable industry, by way of an investment in Spanish Wifi outfit FON
. Time Warner Cable (with 8% of the broadband market) recently set itself apart from its telco rivals by encouraging its broadband customers to use FON's technology and shared broadband access model. Our report
on the subject concludes: "Time Warner's acquiescence was a colossal win for FON, and an important milestone for shared broadband access".
Google recognises that cable is the quiet foster child of the US telecoms industry. Still seen primarily as TV providers, cable companies in fact led the US industry into the broadband era, still have 54% of the market, and are stealing voice customers at a rapid clip. Also often forgotten is that cable is nearly as ubiquitous as fixed telco, and passes well over 90% of US homes. As the cable industry struggles to find a way into the mobile/wireless business to complete its quad-play offer, Google could prove to be a valuable partner in more ways than one.