FCC should release hold on broadband

Freedom New Mexico

The White House and Justice Department have urged the Federal Communications Commission to provide more of the electromagnetic spectrum for wireless high-speed Internet services, suggesting that facilitating more of such services would improve competition in the field.

Releasing more of the spectrum to wireless providers is among the least-intrusive ways to allow more mobile Internet services to come online. It would be better still if the government simply got out of the way, but that doesn’t seem likely.

The fact that two agencies of government are urging another agency to take action on this issue should make this issue clear:

Expansion of wireless Internet services is limited now because government, in an era in which technology was much less sophisticated, took control of allocating who could use the spectrum and how. We are still laboring under those clunky, anachronistic rules.

The original justification for federal regulation was the spectrum (for radio at the time) was limited, and somebody had to decide who got to use it. As new technologies have been developed, mostly in the private sector, however, that justification simply doesn’t apply anymore.

The uses of the spectrum may not be virtually infinite, as some technology gurus might claim, but they are almost unimaginably large.

The system for allocating the electromagnetic spectrum — over which the government assumed control by fiat — now is to auction portions of it off to private companies, with the government still deciding what will be auctioned and for what purposes.

Efficient use of the spectrum — for services consumers actually want rather than for what the government decides is good for us — would be improved if a secondary market were allowed. It would be even more efficient if government’s role were confined to recording claims on the spectrum, rather like an agency recording mining claims.

Given the present system, recommending that the FCC release more of the spectrum for wireless broadband is a sensible move. It recognizes that, given past growth and anticipated future growth of Blackberries, iPhones, the new Google phone and other Web-enabled mobile devices, more spectrum is going to be needed and soon.

The FCC probably needs some prodding to get its creaky bureaucracy moving on the matter.