Sep 02, 2008, 06:57AM

Google Goes To Washington

Internet superpower Google set up a lobbying shop in Washington a few years ago once it became clear that their showdown with old media was going to be fought in the halls of Congress as much as it would be fought in the board rooms of Silicon Valley. Last month they launched their first official campaign, gathering signatures to influence an FCC decision on whether companies like Google can use electronic "white space" between television broadcast signals for internet access.

While Google throws its brand behind all sorts of projects, it hesitates to use its tremendous reach to corral users toward political goals. But it did so in mid-August—and for the first time—when the company launched its "Free the Airwaves" campaign. The goal was to generate pro-"white spaces" broadband pressure on the five FCC commissioners, who may vote on the idea this fall, and so far, the company is more than pleased with its success.

The site's key action item is a petition that people can sign; when the campaign is complete, it will be presented to the FCC.

"Opening up unused TV spectrum might be one of our best remaining chances to address the digital divide by creating affordable and truly universal broadband wireless coverage in the US," the petition says. "I urge you to take this rare opportunity to connect millions more people to the Internet."

In a conversation with Google, Ars has learned that 13,000 people have signed the petition already, which a Google spokesperson characterizes as a "very positive initial response."


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