Property Analogues in Spectrum Management: Applying Adverse Possession
25 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2007
Date Written: 2007
As wireless applications continue to grow in value, the radio spectrum will continue to become more contentious. Unfortunately, not all licensed spectrum is being fully used. Indeed, there is some value to speculative "squatting" on spectrum as the FCC moves more toward property-like rights for spectrum licenses. However, inefficiencies in spectrum management reduce the overall public benefits of this vital resource.
The analogy between spectrum licenses and property rights is becoming stronger due to fewer restrictions put on newly auctioned radio spectrum. This paper defends applying the common law doctrine of adverse possession as a means of obtaining license to fallow spectrum. While some argue in favor of full property rights for spectrum management, this is unnecessary to add adverse possession to the spectrum management toolbox. Instead, adverse possession would become another property-like right for spectrum licenses. An adjusted version of adverse possession, as a means of obtaining a spectrum license, would provide a mechanism to motivate potential entrants to seek unused spectrum. As a result, the application of adverse possession would increase the overall public benefit of the wireless spectrum by encouraging efficient uses of the spectrum. This paper also addresses technical and administrative concerns that would arise as a result of adverse possession. Adverse possession could be used as a great tool to encourage utilization of "white spaces." It will also serve as a corrective measure to settle disputes over spectrum licenses at the same time as promoting technological innovation.
Keywords: spectrum management, telecom policy, adverse possession, property rights
JEL Classification: L96, O38, K11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation