The Guardian has published a decent article about software-based radio, a technology with the potential to radically change the way we use the electromagnetic spectrum:
This presents an interesting problem for the regulatory bodies in charge of the frequency bands. Whereas their work was previously defined by a concept of scarcity—that there were only a few frequencies, and that these need to be bid for and carefully licensed—technology such as software radio, and the techniques you can use when you have it, is proving this assumption completely false. The capacity of a frequency band is, in fact, plentiful.
This puts the incumbent broadcast authorities in a bit of a pickle. The real estate of their assigned (and paid for) frequency allocation loses its value. If, technically, all a newcomer has to do to start broadcasting terrestrial television is to provide a URL, most likely within the signal itself, to a place the TV can download the correct patch—a patch to enable the TV to receive a method of transmission that does not interfere with existing broadcasts—then why do we need to regulate these bands at all? Why should a mobile phone network pay billions of pounds for a slice of spectrum, when software radio, and its associated technologies, would allow thousands of networks to use the same band without interfering? If the capacity of the ether can be made plentiful, why can't you or I have our own TV or radio station?
This is, the article declares, "another case of technology overtaking the regulations." Or, at least, attempting to overtake it: The relevant regulators do not have a strong history of adjusting their rules in response to technological change.
[Via bOING bOING.]