Is it just me, or did we all miss something truly big in the recent Google-FCC fandango?
For those of you just tuning in, Google offered to meet the US$4.6 billion minimum for bidding on chunks of the 700MHz spectrum in America now used for analog TV broadcasts. That spectrum might otherwise become a vast wasteland (ignoring for a moment the fact TV already is a vast wasteland) when all U.S. television broadcasts go digital in 2009.
But first, Google wanted the FCC to change a few things about how it allots spectrum and the kinds of services that can be provided over it. Google didn't get everything it wanted -- for example, the FCC nixed the idea of letting big spectrum owners auction off bits of bandwidth to smaller companies. But it got the Feds to open up part of the spectrum to new devices and services, and that's probably enough.
(Personally, I love the way the casual way Google flashes its roll, show us all those billion dollar bills, and says,"if you just do some things our way, you can have some of this." Unfortunately, they have yet to make the same offer to me. )
Google hasn't said whether it will ultimately bid, or what it plans to use that spectrum for if it does. But the G-men can do just about anything they want at this point, including becoming the world's biggest wireless ISP. So the same radio waves that used to deliver "Gilligan's Island" could soon deliver Googlian's Island.
And if that happens, little buddy, watch out.
That duopoly created by the telcos and cable operators to control all home broadband access? Gone. Those problems getting WiMax installations off the ground (and the huge gaps between them)? Sayonara. Net neutrality? No problem. Those bandwidth restrictions on your wireless card account? Who cares?
And while you're online, would you like to make a VoIP call? Download a movie? Watch endless reruns of "I Dream of Jeanie"? Oh, and by the way, the Internet is now free, because we know that if you see enough Google ads you'll eventually click on some of them, and that more than pays the bills.
Free ubiquitous Internet access and all it entails. What more could any grown geek want?
Of course, this is all wild speculation. Maybe Google doesn't want to be the world's ISP. But it could, if it wanted to (and the FCC let it). That surely must be giving the fat cats at AT&T and Comcast some serious acid reflux.
As they say on the idiot box, tune in tomorrow.