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Auction Bids Reach Google’s “Open Access” Threshold

It’s good news for Google and others who backed open access policies for the winner of the largest block of wireless spectrum in the Federal Communications Commission’s auction which is currently on-going. Bidding has reached beyond the magic number of $4.6 billion for the most desirable portion of the spectrum, the so-called “C-Block”, which means that the open access rules Google pushed for will go into effect.

The auction began one week ago, and after 18 rounds of bidding thus far, bids for the spectrum reached $4.7 billion. The auction will continue until no fresh bids are made, which means that it is likely that the price will go higher.

As a member of the Coalition for 4G in America, Google lobbied to the FCC to attach the open access rules to the auction, arguing that the rules would result in a proliferation of better wireless Internet services. The goal of adopting the open access rules is to open up the spectrum to devices and services not sold by the spectrum owner, meaning that consumers could effectively use a cell phone or service of their choice on the open network, regardless of whether the network has approved it. Some wireless carriers initially opposed the open access regulations, but eventually caved under pressure and said that they would play along.

In recent weeks, there have been concerns that Google might not bid seriously in the auction, and allow one of the other major bidders, such as AT&T or Verizon Wireless win in the end. But we do know that one thing is for certain, they kept in long enough to push the price above the $4.6 billion threshold, ensuring the implementation of the open access rules. At this point it is unclear whether they’ll continue to bid or not. In any case, the winner bidder will likely either be AT&T, Verizon, or Google, as they have the most buying power.

The government has also met their target of raising $10 billion from the auctions, having gotten $13.7 billion in bids for the various blocks and licenses as of Thursday afternoon. This has dispelled fears that a slowing economy might hamper the auction, and cause them to miss their target sales prices.