Google is taking the flak for some of the FCC’s proposals, sparking controversy among telecom firms. Companies such as AT&T, the National Association of Broadcasters, and a coalition of cable firms and programmers cite the FCC’s rulings on broadband privacy and TV set-top boxes as proof that they’re in the pocket of Google and its parent company, Alphabet.
The National Association of Broadcasters had suggested that Google encouraged the FCC to set aside an increased number of unlicensed airwaves, which encourages the use of wi-fi networks and means that Google has to pay for less spectrum. AT&T also suggested that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler tipped the scales in Google’s favor by levying strict rules against broadband companies. (Internet companies like Google operate under a different set of privacy practices from broadband companies, the Federal Trade Commission instead of the FCC.)
The Future of TV Coalition, which supports the cable industry, also criticized Google’s methods. They said that Google’s ins with the FCC afforded them a sneak peek at a FCC plan leveraged in February, which would force pay-TV companies to make their content available to third-party set top box makers.
Google does have a significant presence in Washington, with $16.6 million in federal lobbying. Ex-Googlers include the White House’s Chief Technology Officer and the head of the United States Digital Service. Tension between Google and the FCC has risen before, as Google pushes its Fiber internet network and streaming competes with cable.
“This is a whole new ballgame that I think both the cable and telecom incumbents are not as familiar with and are a bit fearful that somebody’s gonna eat their lunch,” said Gene Kimmelman, CEO of Public Knowledge. The advocacy group has received funding from Google.