Friday, May 16, 2003

Two important spectrum-related decisions by the FCC were issued yesterday. First, the FCC proposed to release an additional 255 MHz in the 5.4 band for unlicensed use -- i.e., Wi-Fi. (The FCC release in PDF form is here.) Second, it proposed to allow companies that have bought spectrum at the FCC's auctions to engage in secondary trading/leasing markets. (The FCC release for that proposal is here, and the New York Times covers the proposal here.)

The move to allow further market trading is a good one, in a second-best sort of way. Given that exclusive spectrum licenses exist in the first place, you might as well allow companies to engage in further trading amongst themselves. On the other hand, it is possible that this decision will merely further entrench the market-based, exclusive rights model of spectrum usage, making it more difficult ultimately to move to a commons-based model in which property rights inhere in spectrum-using devices rather than in the spectrum itself. (I.e., no one has exclusive property rights over the capacity to produce sound waves in a particular city; rather, the relevant property rights relate to the use of devices that produce sound waves, i.e., your voice or stereo system or television, etc.).


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