The Deal Which Wasn’t

I was watching the wires this morning catching up on the comings and goings of our space after a barely earned Thanksgiving break. The story which jumped out was the announced purchase by Google of ICOA which is a large Hot Spot company which specializes in supplying WiFi access in high traffic areas like airports. The story had a solid ring of authenticity about it as Google has sponsored access in the past (I remember they did a very welcome deal last Holiday season where travelers through most major airports got free WiFi for a month or so). There have also been many stories about Google buying up “dark fiber” and potentially looking to supply nationwide WiFi as a potential competitor to the cell phone carriers. WiFi as opposed to 3/4G is completely possible. With enough WiFi you won’t need a cell carrier. This has already happened in some smaller highly tech centric countries like South Korea and it would be much harder to do in a space as large as the US…but it’s feasible with enough coverage. So the story made a kind of gut level common sense.

Looking to clarify the brief item I then searched for ICOA and Tada! there is no acquisition, the whole thing seems to be a fake being denied by all sides. The news services are falling over themselves to deny and retract. The story was published through PR Web a press release service. In the time it took to read the denial it had spread all over the world being picked up and republished in at least six languages and dozens of online publications.

To use PR news services you have to register with contact and payment info…so in theory it should be easy to track down the smoking gun for this story. This is either a story which leaked early or a pretty naked attempt at stock manipulation. I checked the Google stock quote and during the period of the fake release the stock moved only a couple of bucks, but ICOA which is a penny stock on the PINK exchange was up 200% on a huge trading spike. So it rather looks like Google and ICOA were the victims of a stock sting…and the chances are someone is going to jail.

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