The jostling around the upcoming FCC auction for the 700MHz spectrum has been kind of a snoozefest until now: as you'd expect, big wireless companies like Verizon have staunchly supported the traditional closed license model, while 'net companies like Google have advocated for open access. That's about as exciting as these things get, actually -- which means the gray-suit crowd had better hold onto their hats, because AT&T has suddenly switched sides and is now in favor of FCC chairman Kevin Martin's open-access plan, which isn't quite as liberal as Google's proposal, but still requires the auction winner to allow any device or application to use the network. The key difference is that the winner of the auction will have to pay a minimum price to secure the open-access rules -- if that price isn't met, the auction will be re-run without the open-access rules in place. That strikes us as a little backwards, actually -- why would any company pay more for a non-exclusive license? -- but at least it's making this whole thing a little less boring, with AT&T spokespeople just up and saying things like, "In effect, (FCC) chairman Martin's plan faces Google and others with a 'put up or shut up' opportunity." Let the fireworks begin!

[Via RCR Wireless News]

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AT&T endorses open access to 700MHz spectrum