McAdams On: Google’s Gimme

IN-BAND—Google has access to the entire TV band for unlicensed devices. It wants a 6 MHz channel of its own in the UHF band after the auction because the TV band will be more crowded. Fair enough. The TV band will be more crowded. But why should Google get 6 MHz of free UHF spectrum?

This is where broadcast adversaries start howling about how TV stations get free spectrum. The price of “free” in this case comprises more rules than a game of chess, except chess rules don’t change or carry a $325,000 fine if a player drops an f-bomb.

For decades, broadcasting has been a public-private partnership that works for both parties. Broadcasters clear a profit; the fed has an ever-ready communications platform. TV and radio stations provide local jobs; political candidates get free air time.

The airwaves were more or less useless before being homesteaded by broadcasters. Telephone companies then wanted to graze there, and have succeeded through $heer heft in Washington, D.C. At least telephone companies will leave a few tens of billions of dollars on the Treasury table.

What is Google proposing to pay for TV spectrum?

Google, which trades at more than $700 and is worth $517 billion?

Zero. Google is proposing to pay nothing for 6 MHz of spectrum.

Just like a broadcaster, right? So Google must be adhering to a set to strict stipulations, correct? There is but one: be Google.

Google knows more about all of us than any piddly spy agency could dream possible. Google is bound to do something amazing that will bring endless benefits to all of (shareholding) mankind, like 600 or so white-space devices, Hangouts or the self-driving auto hazard, perhaps.

Thus, Google has convinced the feds to consider giving it 6 MHz of UHF spectrum.

The game in Washington doesn’t get played any better than that.