Ethereal Reform

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Corey Doctorow of bOING bOING has been posting detailed reports from a Stanford conference on spectrum policy. There's a lot of interesting stuff here, all centered around two rival (but not entirely incompatible) approaches to opening the ether, one of which would treat spectrum as private property and the other of which would treat it as a commons.

Doctorow's first post is here; scroll upwards for more. If you'd rather not have a blogger mediating between you and the presentations, you can also watch the conference live.

NEXT: Alas, Babylon

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  1. What do you think Jesse? Is there hope that the private property approach will win the day? I’d give very long odds against it.

  2. Well, it’s far from clear that we’re going to get serious reform at all. If we do, we’ll probably get a mix of the two approaches.

    The debate between private-property and commons advocates isn’t one of individual liberty versus state control — both groups favor radical deregulation. It’s more a matter of how to keep the spectrum open to new uses. There’s a lot of really interesting new technologies that allow multiple devices to use the same portion of the spectrum without interfering with one another. Commons advocates are worried that a pure property-rights approach would lock out such uses. Property-rights advocates have a variety of responses to this, including some very sensible ideas about easements that would allow one to use temporarily empty portions of someone else’s spectrum without asking his permission.

    There are people at the FCC who are taking all this very seriously, so there’s some hope for radical reform. Then again, the political cards are always stacked against this sort of thing. We’ll see.

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