The Agenda

Larry Downes on Spectrum Sclerosis

At CNET, Larry Downes describes the coming spectrum bottleneck and what policymakers can do about it:

How have we come so perilously close to running out of spectrum? Part of the problem has to do with the FCC’s increasingly outdated licensing system. Assignments have historically been based on transient and idiosyncratic criteria that favored once-promising new applications and technologies (e.g., UHF television, pagers, satellite radio).

This “command and control” model has resulted in a badly splintered and increasingly unmanageable allocation table of more than 50,000 localized licenses. Many of these licenses arbitrarily limit their use of spectrum to applications that have faded or disappeared, but there’s no easy mechanism for reclaiming spectrum that could be put to better use. The FCC doesn’t even have a working inventory of all its licenses.

(The federal government itself holds vast swaths of spectrum, much of it warehoused, but no central authority has the power to free up under- or unused bands.)

Moreover, the rejection of AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile blocks one strategy for managing the artificial scarcity caused by what Downes calls the FCC’s “plodding and sclerotic mismanagement of the nation’s airwaves.” To manage the resulting crunch, Downes calls for, among other things,

(1) forcing local zoning authorities to move faster on cell tower modification and construction requests;

(2) eliminating various regulations, streamlining approval of spectrum transfers, etc.;

(3) and encouraging the adoption of consumer technologies that use spectrum more efficiently.

Downes concludes with a call for a broader overhaul of spectrum policy, a stance we enthusiastically endorse.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Elections

Fire Brenda Snipes

Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of elections in Florida’s Broward County, does not deserve to be within a thousand miles of any election office anywhere in these United States. She should be fired at the earliest possible opportunity. Snipes has held her position since 2003, in which year her predecessor, ... Read More
PC Culture

The Lonely Mob

Just before the election, an Andrew Gillum intern named Shelby Shoup was arrested and charged with battery after assaulting some college Republicans on the campus of Florida State University. It was rather less exciting than that sounds: She went on a rant about “Nazis” and “fascism” — Gillum’s ... Read More
World

How Immigration Changes Britain

Almost nothing is discussed as badly in America or Europe as the subject of immigration. And one reason is that it remains almost impossible to have any sensible or rational public discussion of its consequences. Or rather it is eminently possible to have a discussion about the upsides (“diversity,” talent, ... Read More
Elections

The Georgia Smear

Back in 2016, when Trump refused to say he’d necessarily accept the result if he lost, we were told that this was a terrible violation of democratic norms. Now, refusing to accept that you lost an election is the highest form of patriotism. Not only are the media and the Left not pressuring Stacey Abrams to ... Read More
Elections

Sorry, Brian Kemp Still Won

Here was the state of play as of yesterday per the Kemp campaign’s breakdown of publicly available information: As of Saturday, November 10, 2018 (12:00 p.m.) *Information below is public.  Total votes reported: 3,924,658 Kemp: 1,975,162 (50.33%) Abrams: 1,912,383 (48.73%) Metz: ... Read More