It’s hard to believe that it was just two years ago that Google co-founder Sergey Brin embarrassed himself and the company with a poorly planned attempt at lobbying Capitol Hill. Fast forward to Thursday afternoon, when the chairman of the FCC uncharacteristically hung out with Google co-founder Larry Page, walking reporters and assorted policy wonks through the machinations that led to the FCC’s decision to open up television white spaces as unregulated spectrum, a ruling pushed hard by the Googlers.
The white spaces ruling was just the latest in a string of telecom policy successes for the search giant, making it an easy call to say there’s no company currently better at manipulating regulators than the kids from Mountain View.
Meet the new boss? Google’s Rick Whitt, left, and AT&T’s Jim Cicconi.
While Google’s lead telecom lawyer (”there’s got to be a better word than lobbyist”) Rick Whitt will always point out that his staff is much smaller than the 700-strong legal troops under Jim Cicconi’s command at AT&T, Whitt’s team does have some significant arrows in its quiver which have perhaps accelerated Google’s influence: The passion supplied by geeky billionaires like Page, who can summon “M.I.T. grads who live and breathe radios” from Google’s engineering ranks to geek out with the FCC’s technical staff; the company’s quasi-religious desire to “do good by the Internet,” which still sounds wholesome even as the company admits that such efforts benefit Google on the bottom line; and its apparent disinterest in benefitting directly from legislative or regulatory action, a stance that makes Google much different from traditional telecom players whose lobbying efforts are almost always directly tied to profits.