James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, January 19, 2007

Abolish the FCC

Jack Shafer in Slate makes a compelling case that the FCC is unnecessary and spectrum could be sold off:
Suppose Congress had established in the early 19th century a Federal Publications Commission to regulate the newspaper, magazine, and newsletter businesses. The supporters of the FPC would have argued that such regulation was necessary because paper-pulp-grade timber is a scarce resource, and this scarcity made it incumbent upon the government to determine not only who could enter the publications business but where. Hence, the FPC would issue publication licenses to the "best" applicants and deny the rest.
The absurd regulatory agency that I imagine here is only slightly more absurd than the Federal Communications Commission, which has exercised even greater control over the radio spectrum.
In this bit of advocacy, an industry group gee-whizzes about the spectrum efficiencies promised by cognitive radios, smart antennas, ultrawide-band devices, mesh networks, WiMax, software-defined radios, and other real-world technology. The spectrum-bounty possibilities are so colossal that some members of the "media reform" movement even subscribe to them. The Prometheus Radio Project, best known for promoting low-power FM radio, accepts one estimate that spectrum capacity may increase 100,000-fold in coming years. If the spectrum cow can give that much milk, why do we need regulators to ration the airwaves as parsimoniously as they do?
I'm impresssed that a mainstream site like Slate would publish something so bold.

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