Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Open Appeal to Bill Gates About Google Buying Bandwidth

Dear Mr. Gates,

Well, it looks like things have come full-circle. Not long ago, some of us were grumbling about your company acting like a monopoly (well, not me, actually, but certainly others). And now looming ahead of us is a scenario that makes your smack-down of some Silicon Valley rivals look like Little League play.

Of course I am referring to a recent announcement by Google that it intended to bid a minimum amount of $4.6 billion for a what-was-the-FCC-thinking bandwidth auction for 700 mhz bandwidth. That is a hefty pile of cash. Not that you don't have a bigger one. But for many of us, that kind of money is, well, prohibitive.

Now Google is not at fault for pushing the technological envelope. Neither are they wrong for their innovations and business ambitions. I don't think Google is sinister or underhanded in this.

But what is harrowing about this situation is this: So Google wins the auction for the bandwidth. Then they offer free wireless service to everybody with a Google phone, or G-phone or whatever. Instant hit. Everybody loves free. Now all of that is not bothersome. Google has always found ways to redefine things and their ideas have benefited many.

But what if they took that information from the cell phones and integrated it with Google Earth? I mean you can already go on Google Earth and see where people's web cams are located and other shared information. Now imagine what a cell phone's global positioning system information would look like combined with Google Earth!! Want to know where I am? Just type in my cell phone number. There you can see exactly on the planet where my coordinates were as of a few seconds ago. (And so can a stalker!) The implications of this are profound.

Now this is great from an information perspective, but this could certainly become an international human tracking system which is a monster we DO NOT want to create. Sure it would be great for security purposes. Yes, you could know where your child was (or at least his/her cell phone.) Yes, you could monitor employees and people flow and all kinds of snappy things. But regardless of promises and security measures, having any one enterprise be able to track not only where you are but where you have been, regardless of motive and benefit, is most certainly Big Brother. And such a thing clearly needs to be prevented from unfolding! I mean, do you want the public to be able to know where you have been? Frankly, it's nobody's business but your own.

So why do we come to you? Well, you and I are in a position to keep this from happening. Why you and I? Well, we are a lot alike. You invented the computer and I use a computer. You are prominent and popular and I know who you are. You started Microsoft and I pay Microsoft. You live in Washington and I rooted for the Washington State Huskies one year when they were in the Orange Bowl. You have about $50 billion and I have about $50. We are the same. (Though I may be a little bit more of a gentleman for allowing you to be the front man in this episode.)

You see, there is a way that you, Mr. Gates, could step in and secure not only your company's future, but you could add some paragraphs to history's expanding pages about you. Google's stack of cash is big; but we all know yours is bigger. Google cannot out bid you, Mr. Gates. And if you won that auction, you could design parameters of separation between personal gps information on a cell phone level, a corporate ability to gather that data, and a public ability to view that information. You could dictate things within the company that could ensure responsible use of that bandwidth. You could bind your company to ethical use of it.

Furthermore, your company, Microsoft, could once again be in the driver's seat for the road ahead. In possession of the bandwidth, you would have a certain amount of leverage to have a say in how things play out for the next 20 years. Microsoft is no stranger to leading. I think its time to grab the reins once again.

And for our part, that is, the mass of humanity, we sincerely repent from our former actions of occasionally installing your software on a computer or two beyond what was exactly legal at the time (with an understanding, of course, that that was before registration of the product was mandatory and that we are living clean now, and have been for some time...). We also confess that we were secretly pleased when the government handed down some rather nasty penalties against Microsoft (though just parts of us were pleased, not all of our beings, just like maybe a few sections of the brain. Or something. And, in hindsight, those were rather flimsy charges that were brought up and quite an insensitive penalty they handed down....ya know. )

So the appeal is this: Mr. Gates, would you please investigate the ramifications as mentioned above and consult your fellow smart-guys up there in Redmond and look at how a 'little investment' might be in the best interests of Microsoft? And then would you be courageous enough to have the boys in the warehouse bring that wallet of yours over on a pallet so that you could crack it open a little to see how small you think you can make Google's $4.6 billion look?

We've come to love you, Mr. Gates. We know that you built and own the computer world, but you know what? It's a good world. We love what we can do because you have standardized so many things. We know you and we love you. You have been a good regent. (On the other hand, Google, doesn't even have a face.) And now its time to take care of your children and protect them from a big brother; from who's clutches we may not be able to escape. Do the right thing, Mr. Gates. Stop the madness for us. Will you, ....Daddy?

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