The Radio and the Internet
71 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2008 Last revised: 14 Apr 2008
In this article, I evaluate the multi-billion-dollar 700 MHz auction regime established by the FCC in 2007-08 as a case study in the institutional role of the Commission. The Commission's solicitude for the interests of large traditional communications players is still as firmly in place as it was in the 1920s. Congressional pressures and the sense that the Internet ethos has contributed to the economy did lead the Commission in 2007-08 to take a moderately less-protective approach to the wireless incumbents' business plans. Yet the Commission's vision of the public interest remains incoherent. The FCC still appears to believe that it is best for dominant private wireless carriers (the high-power broadcasters of our day) to be able to dictate in detail how the airwaves are used.
I suggest that the public interest would best be served by nudging this country towards the Internet no permission required, common carriage ethos. No auction is truly neutral, and the background assumptions of the 700 MHz auction are likely to lead to stalled innovation for US wireless communications and continued inadequate Internet access.
Keywords: telecommunications, networks, cyberlaw, spectrum, FCC
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