Auctioning the 700 MHz Spectrum
While I disagree with his premise that businesses trying to protect their interests are “seriously bad people,” Matt Stoler is right that the FCC should open the competition for the 700 MHz band to all comers.
Kevin Drum‘s tone is more sober:
If the telecom industry has its way, the entire spectrum will be auctioned off under the current rules to the current players and new competitors will be shut out. If you’re happy with the lousy service and spectacular lack of innovation demonstrated by today’s telecom giants, this is the plan for you.
For the rest of us, a better policy would be to auction off a piece of the spectrum under the usual rules, but to reserve another chunk to be auctioned off under “open access” rules that require the spectrum to be open to anyone who wants to lease it and to any device that’s capable of running on it. This would allow small innovators to enter the market and would open up the spectrum to interesting new devices in the same way that the Supreme Court’s 1969 Carterphone decision revolutionized the phone industry by opening up the old telephone network to answering machines and cordless phones not made by AT&T. But none of this will happen if the entire spectrum gets auctioned off to the usual suspects.
Because of its very nature, broadcast media requires some centralized regulation to ensure that competition doesn’t, quite literally, cause signals to become noise. Beyond that, however, it strikes me as eminently reasonable to allow the market as much freedom as possible. The more innovation, the better.