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WASHINGTON � It shaped up as a classic Goliath-squashes-David lobbying story. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to auction spectrum on the public airwaves suitable for wireless phone and Internet transmissions. In response, a collection of nonprofit technology and consumer groups suggested that the winning bidder be required to provide access to its network for the public benefit. Ben Scott, policy director of media independence group Free Press, recalls thinking that the nonprofits had a strong case but were going to get crushed anyway. “We didn’t expect anyone to shove it down the telecoms’ throats,” he said. Then in May, just a few months before the auction rules were settled, something unexpected happened: Internet giant Google Inc. joined the fray � and aligned itself with the nonprofits. If the FCC adopted the nonprofits’ rules and mandated space for the public good, Google hinted, it might put down its own bid. A different tack Scott said Google waged a lobbying campaign that played to its strengths, one focused less on garnering Capitol Hill support than on swaying FCC commissioners with a blizzard of white papers. “They just took a fundamentally different tack,” he said. “Despite the fact that they have more money than God, they don’t have the power to go toe-to-toe with the phone companies in Washington.” Indeed, the telecoms fought back, arguing that an “open access” requirement could disrupt service and would depress the spectrum’s sale price. But when the dust finally settled, a divided FCC gave Google most of what it wanted. A mandatory period of public silence imposed on auction bidders prevents the company from boasting, but it’s clear Google’s FCC caper was a significant lobbying victory over some pretty long odds. And in taking on the telecoms, Google was demonstrating its intent to be a Washington player. The company has been expanding its roster of lobbyists and policy advisers and is set to move into a brand-new expanded office later this month. “I’ve not seen a tech company put together a team faster than Google,” said Ralph Hellmann, vice president of government relations for the Information Technology Industry Council. “They knew they were going to have many opportunities, and they knew they were going to be a big target.” Google was a famously late arrival in Washington, opening its lobbying shop only in 2005. Until recently, talk about its lobbying still focused on the company’s perceived goofs, such as co-founder Sergey Brin’s 2006 tennis-shoe-clad trip to Capitol Hill, or involved a requisite cautionary tale about how fellow tech giant Microsoft Corp.’s disdain for Washington left it vulnerable to a multibillion-dollar antitrust suit. Come a long way But Google has come a long way since it recruited Alan Davidson, an associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, to build the company’s Washington shop. According to Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich, these days Google’s lobbying, policy analysis and communications team in Washington numbers around 15 and is complemented by three outside firms. The firm will soon trade its temporary corporate office space on Pennsylvania Avenue for a 31,000-square-foot floor in a newly constructed building on New York Avenue. The company is importing a bit of its Mountain View, Calif., lifestyle as well, installing a game room and a professional kitchen.

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