Schmidt: Google will ‘Probably’ Bid on Spectrum

[qi:83] ASPEN, Colo. — Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the search giant will “probably” bid in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auctions, telling an audience here Tuesday that Google “got the spirit of what we were asking” for in the recent rulemaking decision by the FCC.

After reportedly piloting his own twin-engine aircraft to this well-known mountain resort town for an evening keynote speech at this year’s Progress and Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit, Schmidt wrapped his first public comments about the recent spectrum rulemaking into a wide-ranging talk that championed free speech, open networks and the future of communications infrastructure, the latter of which he called “a national issue” that demands immediate attention.

By taking the lead spotlight at the annual PFF event — which is typically attended by the nation’s top communications policymakers, lobbyists and associated influencers — Schmidt cemented his new position as high-tech’s leading commentator on telecom issues. “We need to keep the Internet free and open — if it goes the other way, we’re going to have a serious problem,” Schmidt said to open his remarks. He then said networks are now “at the level of roads and electricity,” building an important infrastructure “more quickly than we’ve ever seen.”

In his prepared talk, Schmidt championed the defense of free speech, universal broadband access, network neutrality principles and government information transparency as four “call to action” items on Google’s to-do list. But his headline-making remarks vis-a-vis the 700 MHz rulemaking all but committed Google to participating in the upcoming auction, ending speculation that the company might sit out the bidding since the FCC didn’t completely agree with all of Google’s rulemaking suggestions that seemed part of its pre-emptive $4.6 billion offer.

Saying the FCC’s rules were “conducive” to the kind of bid Google might make, Schmidt said “probably… is the way to answer,” when asked directly if Google would still participate. The key outcome for Google, he said, is for there to be open networks which users can access with any devices they choose, with competition among providers for services. If that comes to pass, Schmidt said “that’s a pretty good outcome. But it’s important that the choice be possible.”

More on Schmidt’s talk tomorrow.