Advocates of wireless open access, including FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and members of Congress, praised Verizon Wireless’s surprise decision on Tuesday to open its network to outside devices and applications in a move that represents a significant shift in strategy for the nation’s second-largest cellular carrier. Verizon’s announcement follows the formation of an industry-wide alliance earlier this month by Google and 33 other companies that would develop mobile devices and applications for use on open networks. Google—a prospective participant in the FCC’s upcoming 700 MHz auction—had also been a driving force behind FCC rules requiring that the winners of licenses in the 700 MHz C-block open their networks to devices of the subscribers’ choice. Denying that its decision is tied to the auction, a spokesman for Verizon (which had once fought against Google’s effort to adopt open platform requirements for the C-block) asserted that Verizon’s “separate and distinct” business model allowing for open access “focuses on meeting customers’ needs” and “[taps] into those customers that are looking for complete control of their device.” As analysts observed that Verizon’s strategy is likely to pressure other carriers into following suit, Verizon confirmed that its open access policy would go into effect by mid-2008. By early next year, Verizon will publish technical standards that will allow manufacturers to design products that would work on Verizon’s CDMA network. Before approving the use of any such device on its network, Verizon will test devices and applications in its own laboratory to ensure that “minimum technical standards” are met. Expressing hope that “our auction rules would ultimately encourage all of the wireless industry to adopt a more open and consumer-friendly industry approach,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin touted Verizon’s announcement and Google’s Open Handset alliance as “a significant step toward fulfilling these goals.”