Friday, March 10, 2006

PPF and Open Spectrum

Having found the PPF site I started reading through the "Report from the Working Group on New Spectrum policy." (PDF) It is pretty wonkish.

From the summary page:

"The group proposes five possible options for moving towards a market-based allocation of spectrum, each granting a different level of rights or compensation to incumbents:

  • Auction spectrum with rights to clear incumbents immediately without compensation
  • Auction spectrum with rights to clear incumbents, but with compensation for relocation or ceasing of operations
  • Auction spectrum without rights to clear incumbents, leaving the private sector to negotiate transactions to clear incumbents from the auctioned spectrum
  • “Big Bang” auction of unassigned and encumbered spectrum permitting incumbents to repurchase existing rights at no net cost or receive vouchers.
  • Give incumbent licensees full property rights to the spectrum they use"
Luckily smarter eyes are also reading that report. From TechDirt:

"The idea was that rather than (as the FCC does) setting exactly what the spectrum must be used for and who can use it, the market is allowed to decide. That is, anyone can purchase the exclusive rights to the spectrum, but then, they can do with it as they want -- whether that's selling it to others, or making use of the spectrum. That, combined with a decent amount of open spectrum, seems like a fairly reasonable plan (amazingly enough).

Not everyone agrees. The folks at the Progress & Freedom Foundation (with whom we've clashed before) have put out a report claiming that pretty much all spectrum should be licensed and auctioned off, and that the concept of open spectrum discourages investment, is inefficient, and slows innovation in the space.

The real issue is how competition is defined. For the report's authors, competition is seen as being between different owners of spectrum. However, what WiFi has shown, is that competition works within the same bit of open spectrum -- because of the openness. Can it lead to interference? Absolutely.

But, depending on the application, some amount of interference can be fine -- as it is with most basic WiFi implementations. Of course, it's also worth noting that PFF is a well known opponent to muni-broadband efforts -- and getting rid of more open spectrum (which is used for most muni-broadband offerings) would support that cause as well."

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