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The Almighty Buck

Selling Off The Airwaves 122

Lone Owl points to a Jeremy Rifkin piece published yesterday in The Guardian about a plan gathering steam to privatize ownership of the radio spectrum currently licensed in the U.S. by the FCC. "37 leading US economists have signed a joint letter asking the FCC to allow broadcasters to lease spectrum they currently license, from the government in secondary markets. Read it here." I wonder what the future of microbroadcasting would be like were this to happen. What would you do if you could buy a little slice of your local spectrum?
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Selling Off The Airwaves

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You, have a valid point and in general I oppose govertment control of almost anything. I would agree with you on this had it been a free market form the start and all paryties having had the oppertunity to get a pice of it before the giant multinational companies took over. If small radio companies had held stakes in the market since its conseption a century ago things would have been fine we would have ended up with a wide diverse world of radio. Thats not the case though Now your talking about turning a goverment run market rather suddenly into a free markey for the profit of the govertment and the higest bidders will win. Multinational corps would end up with the entire spectrum and leave nothing unless we carefull made rules about owning contorling inrests in stations that cover x square miles of territory and limited it to some small area. Such as Sony, Disney or AOL could not have controling intrests in more Brodcast stations then it takes to broacast to a 6000sq/mi area in total or something like that in order to keep broadcast open to multiple points of view.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If radio frequencies were sold on an open market, they'd be worth too much money for microbroadcasters to afford. Radio stations make good money from advertising, around here it's like $20 for a 30-second spot. With three hours of advertising a day, you're talking $7000 in revenue a day, or about $2.5 million a year. Even if a lot of that is going to go into salaries, equipment, and fees for playing music, you can still justify a few mil for frequencies even in moderately populated areas.

    There might be an upside. If radio licenses were expensive, a lot of those Christian stations would go off the air, to be replaced by country & western stations.

    NPR? What a joke! National TV and Radio was Nixon's baby. The commercial broadcasters didn't agree with him 100% about everything, and he couldn't handle that, so he wanted there to be a government-controlled media network that would be vulnerable to political pressure.

    "All Things Considered" sounds like a cross between the death throes of Spiro Agnew and a British WWII propaganda broadcast. Each story is a disgusting postmodern monstrosity, something like a PT Cruiser. Interspersed with interviews and music by no-talent musicians.

    Now sure, there is some good stuff that gets on ~some~ public broadcasting stations, such as the Radio Project's (http://www.radioproject.org/) Making Contact, but that's getting harder and harder to find, particularly when a bunch of Clintonian goons took over the board of Pacifica radio.

    http://www.tcgreens.org/
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The FCC licenses low power FM broadcasting:

    http://www.fcc.gov/mmb/prd/lpfm/ [fcc.gov]

    Low Power FM by spread spectrum would be nice. Kind of like a VPN via 802.11b wireless but you have micro broadcasting stations every 6 to 8 blocks for good coverage if you're on the highway with a laptop.

    This link disappeared from www.fcc.gov [fcc.gov]'s homepage right after Powell, Jr. became chairman. Click on the "More..." link at the bottom of the homepage to find the link for LPFM and keep track of progress in the licensing of this technology.

    Just because half of the FCC, the single-source news media and all the other usual gangs of moneyed buffons question the practicality of LPFM doesn't mean we have to.

    ..

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...to broadcast media in the U.S., or any other country for that matter, to get news, sports, and other such goodies. The site http://www.dxing.com/swlintro.htm has all kinds of introductory info about shortwave listening (SWL'ing), which is nothing more than listening to broadcast stations outside of the U.S. limits of 530-1600 KHz AM, and 88-108 MHz FM.

    I've been able to listen directly to the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Australia, and Lord only knows how many foreign-language stations. For a start on some frequencies to listen on, check this link: http://www.anarc.org/naswa/swlguide/

    No matter how hard they try, the media conglomerates in this country will never be able to "own the airwaves" completely. Invest in a good receiver, string up a long-wire or similar antenna, and start tuning around. You'd be surprised what you come up with.

  • The land mobile industry has been drooling for years about getting their hands on the frequency spectrum in the amateur radio service. So far, they've been only partly successful, mainly in their stealing of part of the 220 Mhz band. If this proposal passes, I believe that we can kiss The Amateur Radio Service goodbye. THIS service is microbroadcasting at it's finest and also has proven it's value time and time again by providing free communications, especially during emergencies. Once again, the only thing that seems to matter is the almighty buck!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:08AM (#258274)
    For me that letter starts alarm bells ringing in the very first paragraph. If they think what they're doing is in the public interest, why do they put "public interest" in quotes. If they're not happy with the phrase why do they use it? Do they think this would be in the public interest or not? The quotes suggest maybe no, or at least they want to avoid being held to thier word. It's just a weird way of expressing themselves.
  • Frankly I'd rather see the government control the airwaves than a corporation. I can elect people to control the government...

    How delightfully naive.

    I'm sorry, I'm being an asshole. But of course you can't elect people to control the government.

    But the corporations can!

    And we go back around.

  • But as it stands, only the few offices near the top are true political appointments, and in some cases, even they survive administrations.

    Actually, there's a few hundred politically appointed offices that get replaced after most every election. They do go pretty far down the chain. It would suck if every government worker lost their job after an election though. You create a huge group that votes not for the best person, but for whomever will save their job.

    As for boycotts, as I asked another poster, show me a successful boycott of a major corporation in the last 20 years. A fortune 100 corp.

  • Please give an example of a successful boycott of a major corporation in the last 20 years. A Fortune 100 corp. I doubt you'll find one. If you do, I'd love to know how it worked.

  • Ok, Jackson may have had some influence on that case. But racism has become a really easy target too. It's easy to get a HUGE number of black people to protest the mistreatment of black people. It's easy to understand and it's easy to see immediate effects of such mistreatment. Then there's the fact that there was some seriously strong evidence against Texaco to begin with. Without that, I doubt Texaco would have settled at all. I don't see how this situation supports the idea that boycotts work against major corporations these days. Especially corporations that have very diverse product lines. And especially in cases involving IP. It's just too hard to get enough people to understand what's going on and to get them to connect all the dots and see where it will probably lead.

  • If people actually saw leases of national resources as a source of income, which do you think would be more likely:

    a) People would suddenly accept tax rates higher than they have grown used to.

    b) We would have less government.

    For extra credit: Do you think most people actually trust the government not to waste money from non-tax sources?

    The problem is that voting citizens do not get to see this money. It is hidden from them. That makes it susceptible to abuse. Spectrum is just one example. Water, mineral, grazing land, etc. are all chock full of wasteful sweetheart deals and hidden subsidies.

  • by Zigurd ( 3528 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @09:51AM (#258280) Homepage
    Nobody has yet pointed out the most serious flaw in "licensing" or "leasing" resources that, for lack any alternative, are considered the property of nations: You and I don't get dividend checks for this stuff. If we did, we would have an interest in charging the right price for these resources. But we never see the money, so these deals are subject to all kinds of B.S. like licensing broadcast spectrum "for the public good." Broadcast licensees are, essentially, squatters that have taken over property you and I should be compensated for. I want the back rent.

    Corporations and the governments are both, in theory, organizations consisting of individuals. Why should some corporation's shareholders benefit through my share in a national resource without me getting paid for the priviledge? If you permit these deals to go on between unaccountable bureaucrats and managements at large companies that are themselves well-insulated against shreholder scrutiny, you will get deals that cut you out. Put some money on the table, and see how quick people get up to speed on maximizing the return on spectrum.

    The problem is not "public" versus "private." The problem is that there is no sense of ownership by the people who should feel like they own the airwaves. Consequently, you get all kinds of sweetheart deals and good-for-the-nation drivel that masks that this stuff is being given away or traded for favors. You own it. Ask your congressman for your dividend check.

  • Really long cables, perhaps?

    Satellite transmission (over the airwaves) does not make us "less dependent on those airwaves". Nor does the internet, really; I look forward to the day when I can have high speed access without a cat 5 umbilical cord.
  • Oddly enough - the internet WAS originally regulated. Before the government gave up nominal control and sponsorship, you couldn't do business over the net. Back then it was only the domain of academics.

    Maybe we should revert??
  • "I wonder what the future of microbroadcasting would be like were this to happen. What would you do if you could buy a little slice of your local spectrum?"

    You won't, of course, be able to buy anything. You may, if you're very wealthy, be able to lease a small portion of the spectrum, over which you can transmit a small wattage to a localized area.

    Forget about a protected band of public communications being used by hackers [slashdot.org] or do-gooders [slashdot.org] to provide a public internet to everyone. Such projects are only possible because the government has set aside those bands for the public good.

    If such bands are owned by corporations, which have the choice between selling your entire city wireless internet access on their own terms, and leasing you a bandwidth license so that you can provide the net for free, which do you think they will prefer? How long do you think your lease will last?

    And even if you do get a lease, do you honestly think it won't include terms like "lessee agrees that no illegal information shall be transmitted across the leased spectrum, including but not limited to MP3s whose copyright cannot be verified, pirated software, all digitally encoded movies, other intellectual property not owned by the transmittor, nor any decryption programs which are illegal under the DMCA. No access to FreeNet or other encrypted piracy havens shall be allowed, and the license shall be revoked if any unauthorized data transmission is detected."

    I mean, we're talking about selling off the internet of the future to companies like Viacom, who owns both MTV and its "competitor" VH1, to Sony and other record labels, to Disney who owns Touchstone, Miramax, and Buena Vista Films. These are the companies that own all the good data. [mediachannel.org] Why would you want to let them set up tollbooths and checkpoints at the on-ramps of the information superhighway?

    I'm being silly, of course, because no sane company would lessen its stranglehold of control anyway, unless forced to by the government, but even if they did, do you honestly think that Sony would not bother to park a van outside your home office, monitoring your wireless communications to make sure you aren't trading encrypted MP3s?

    Natural monopolies demand regulation.

    Jamie McCarthy

  • Well, Rifkin *is* a twit (although finally he seems to have found a less annoying hobby than harrassing geneticists, which was his previous schtick, cf. Algeny, etc).

    However, the old rhetoric of "central planning equals communism" is pretty mindless. There are quite a few countries that have more central planning than the US (Canada and Sweden come to mind), and far from being Stalinistic hellholes, they tend to beat the US in the UN's quality of life index, even if they have fewer billionares per capita
  • However, MP3.com is not as big a threat to RIAA as people make it out to be. That's why they're still around, despite the legal issues of the MyMP3.com music storage service.

    MP3.com aims its audience specfically at lesser-known bands that haven't been tied to the major record labels. It's a great way to introduce people to new and promising musicians.
  • One of the things that Alvin Toffler talked about in The Third Wave was that if a media distribution medium shows up that can drastically reduce the cost of distributing information on a vast scale, it would literally change the world. That medium now exists--the public Internet. I mean look at the absolutely amazing amount of things you get get off the Internet--the so-called 500-channel cable TV promised back in the 1980's has nothing compared to what you can get off the Internet.

    Political groups of every persuasion now have a voice where none existed before; you can read newspapers, magazines, etc. from literally world-wide, where this was impossible before.

    We are right now in the middle of the greatest information revolution since the invention of the low-cost hot-metal type printing press by Johann Gutenberg in the 1450's.
  • by RayChuang ( 10181 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @04:44AM (#258287)
    After reading the article, I think Mr. Rifkin forgot one thing: he should have read the book The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler.

    A major salient point from Toffler is the so-called demassification of the media, meaning that many more people can disseminate information than in the past. Despite the arrival of the media superconglomerates like AOL Time Warner (an entity I have lots of qualms about because of their reach in both media content creation and distribution), the commercialization of the Internet has allowed entities of all political, racial, gender, etc. persuasions to have a voice that can be read by potentially billions of people.

    Why do you think ever since the Internet has become commercial that TV viewership and newspaper readership has gone down? Or the fact that only now has the RIAA realized the threat of things like Napster bypassing all the middlemen in terms of music distribution?
  • The internet has made radio passe. Let it go.

    It has?

    You mean I can listen to internet broadcasting while in my car, or at the gym?

    I can buy a cheap $20 wireless internet terminal to take with me when I go camping?

    I think you'd best re-examine your preconceptions before you go making such a silly statement.

    Jay (=
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @11:27AM (#258289) Homepage
    There is a problem with the current system of spectrum allocation. It is slow, inefficient and highly politicized. This has lead to a system where many frequency allocations are poorly utilized and use archaic technology. It also allows current license holders to shield themselves from competition by lobbying the Congress and the FCC. Mindless knee-jerk rants about "bad corporations" do not solve the problem. Making some spectrum allocations into "private property" or resellable leases could solve many of these problems.
  • It sounds like they're asking for the existing allocations to simply be made permanent. If the un-named economists in the story really believe that making it commercial property is the way to go, they should be asking to *BUY* it.

    "Want to keep those cell phones that you service operating? Better buy up that spectrum before somone else does. Oh, sorry... Somone else outbid you."

    The problem is, a lot of commercial ventures have asked for and received huge pieces of the spectrum. UPS has a large chunk of the spectrum that they don't seem to use (the home office uses regular pagers and waits for drivers to call them back).

    It also leads to situations like the TV broadcasters saying "Hey, we need X of the spectrum because we're going to be broadcasting HDTV at max resolution." Then once they realize that they can commercialize that spectrum they suddenly start talking about broadcasting in half that resolution and selling the remaining 75% of the spectrum to others.

    Yeah, if they want to own the spectrum, they can buy it from we the people -- it's rightful owners.

    Oh, and we realize they're valuable now. Be sure to bring your Master Card.
  • Mp3.com is targeting what ANY startup in that business would target, unsigned artists, these tend to be small time bands. However, that does not by any means mean that that is their sole objective. In fact, I don't think that investment would make much sense if it were just that. Napster, on the other hand, has very little to offer an artist in terms of distribution. How can they possibly be stronger? (Not that I think either is particularly viable even, soley, as a distributor..)

    Why does everyone on slashdot automatically assume that just because both mp3.com and napster were sued by the labels that their sole reason must be because they represent competition, despite the fact that both were very certainly treading on their copyrights. This, also, despite the fact that OTHER supposed potential distributors exist and have not yet been threatened. I would argue that the reason they are free from lawsuits is because they aren't getting stepping on the labels' copyrights.
  • No, my logic is not flawed. First, that would be a flaw in my premise, not in the structure of my logic. Second, I already know the labels sued over my.mp3.com and I stated that too. However, that issue is now largely resolved and was confined EXCLUSIVELY to my.mp3.com, not their entire business. mp3.com was operating for a long time before they started the my. service.

    All of your arguments are totally unsubstantiated. You assume the labels' reasoning must be because both mp3.com and napster are possibly competing distributors. What's worse, you assume that no one can reasonably have a view point that differs since you assume it follows logically. Meanwhile you must ignore some simple and well established facts to make this assertion (you presume it naturally follows logically, when it does not):

    a) The labels are primarily about capital and marketing, not about distribution. In other words, being distribution alone (assuming either Napster or mp3.com are even capable of assuming this role) is not enough to compete by a long shot. This is why the labels continue to succeed today and why no pure (or virtually pure) distribution scheme is going to takeover.

    b) Both mp3.com and Napster gave the labels OTHER reason to file lawsuits, they stepped all over the labels' copyrights. (The ethics of these arguments are besides the point)

    c) The existence of other potential and existing distributors, online and offline that are just as, if not more, viable that have NEVER been sued by the labels.

    d) A minor point, mp3.com was operating a long time before my.mp3.com started and before they got sued. Besides the fact that the labels chose not to sue during that time, which is relevant to your assertion, it strongly implies that mp3.com needs something more than hype to succeed and carry their name. They knowingly took a big risk by employing copyrighted material, one does not take risks unless there is reward. If this kind of distribution has so much potential, why risk a supposedly lucractive distribution enterprise over something external and relatively small (compared to their supposed potentiality)?

    If you really want to convince a skeptic, then show the previous 3 statements to be false. Otherwise, you're asking for nothing less than a leap from logic and reason to pure faith and paranoia.
  • Or the fact that only now has the RIAA realized the threat of things like Napster bypassing all the middlemen in terms of music distribution?
    First, Napster undeniably represents an clear and direct threat to the labels' intellectual property. So it is unreasonable to jump to the conclusion that just because the labels are attacking napster that it must be because Napster represents a new form a distribution.

    Second, if the labels are attacking Napster because it threatens their distribution channels, why not attack mp3.com (yes, I know about my.mp3.com, but that's a seperate issue) and the numerous other online services? Mp3.com represents a vastly more viable competitive threat than Napster does. Napster as a mainstream distribution channel is, at best, theoretical, at worst, a simply ridiculous theory.

    Third, the very emphasis that you give raw distribution (ala Napster) implies that you do not fully understand the role of the major labels. The real unique value that the labels offer, over and above all these pure distribution arrangements (e.g., Napster, mp3.com, indy labels, direct mailing, etc.) is capital and marketing, not raw distribution. When I say raw distribution, I mean, the ability to get music from point A (the artist) to point B (the interested public). Sure, these other methods can do that, the problem is that selling records is a lot more involved than that, first consumers must be aware of the artists offering and they must want it. Put simply, the alternatives do not truely offer this. Hence, emerging artists and existing artists continue, by and large, to sign with established labels, not the trendy theories.
  • Let's be a little more precise here. The National Science Foundation ran the NSFnet, which was the primary backbone network for the Internet for years. NSF's acceptable use policies restricted commercial use of NSFnet, and this effectively translated to no commercial use of the Internet at large, simply because it was generally difficult to tell if the traffic might cross NSFnet. In many cases, it did.

    In theory, there was nothing to stop systems on the Internet from sending commercial traffic, as long as it didn't cross NSFnet or other providers with similar policies. In practice, I seem to recall UUNet offering a commercial-oriented service that could (1) connect you to the Internet and (2) allow you to send commercial traffic to similarly-connected UUNet customers. Of course, I might be misremembering. (Does anyone know for sure?)

    Eventually, NSF relaxed the rules about the same time as other backbone providers started to come to the forefront. NSF later got out of the business of providing a backbone network for the Internet, but they had been marginalized by the emergence of other commercial providers by that time anyhow...
  • Hmmm, maybe things are different in the UK, but here in the US the FCC made a similar proposal, broadcasters all shared a hearty "Up Yours", and nothing's changed. I agree that it would totally suck and not be in the public interest to make such a change all at once, but I'm not as fearful that it will occur, since there's really no one (other than the government) with an interest in making the change.

    I'm not opposed to digital TV per se; I just want to have a choice.

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • Here's the crux of the debate: what does the invisible hand do well, and what doesn't it do well?

    That's the policy question we really should be asking. Do we know if the invisible hand uses the radio spectrum better than the FCC -- or average citizen -- would? Nope.

    Here's my plan for an experiement: let's take the existing spectrum, and carve it up into 3 areas. One portion of the spectrum is administered by the FCC as it is now. One portion is leased to commerical entities for a period of something like 10-20 years. They can trade those leases as they like. One last portion is given out to the public to do whatever they please with. All three groups (anyone using or leasing a portion of the spectrum) are required to report what they've done with it -- both in terms of services provided and gross/net returns.

    Then we review each method for results on best services....

    --
  • Since this is an opinion piece (and a fairly baised one) about a letter, where's the link to the letter? What did it actually say?

  • by Opinion Dalek ( 17482 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:00AM (#258298)
    Well here's the letter. [brookings.org] Lets be grateful the Internet wasn't regulated, we would still all be trying to use ISO. Just think what can be done if the Internet is coupled with a free market in communcations.
  • A major salient point from Toffler is the so-called demassification of the media, meaning that many more people can disseminate information than in the past.

    I love Alvin and Heidi... I'm one of their biggest fans. But I'm not sure that what we're seeing here is the demassification of the media just yet, as is the case with the Internet.. We're definitely seeing that with the Internet. But maybe this selling off of airwaves is a first step. Or maybe what will happen is that, increasingly, traditional media, such as radio and TV, won't matter anymore. We're seeing a move towards digital TV and digital radio. Yes, digital radio...the Big Three (and I work for one of them, so I should know ::) are putting in these new "AM/FM/XM" radios into cars...XM is a digital, commercial free (currently) subscription radio service where you get a larger variety of stations and music than ever possible before.

    I see a convergence of all these technolgies, Internet, digital radio, digital TV happening...with initiatives like Internet2, we'll all have the massive amounts of bandwidth to make traditional analog broadcasting a thing of the past anyway. Wireless broadcasting will continue, but it will be all digital and satellite-based meaning far fewer frequencies will be necessary. There won't need to be a difference between your radio and TV and Internet signals...they'll all come on the same carrier!

  • by DoorFrame ( 22108 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @12:04PM (#258300) Homepage
    You do see it, of course, through lower taxes. Sure, whenever the government makes money, you don't feel like you've gained anything... but try to consider, for a moment, how high your taxes would be if the government had no income? In your mind it's easy to write off one or two of these sorts of things, but when you consider how much money the government brings in through NON-TAX income, you then might begin to consider the quantity of funds you've been saving by not being taxed for an equivalent amount.

    Just a note.

    --

  • When land mobile services are being crowded and spectrum demand is at an all time peak, what do you suggest we do? It's not like more spectrum is being made available to land mobile users.

    Oh sure, we could bid on it. But we would only be beat out by the Verizon's, Cellular One's, and Nextel's out there.

    Imagine trusting your public safety communication to the phone company who can't even keep thier billing system straight. Oh wait, you don't have to imagine. It's in the near future.

    These auctions are killing off land mobile as well as amateur radio and are driving up the cost of doing business in the process. Soon a small contracting business won't be able to license its own radio use but will have to pay some mega-corp for air time.

    So whine all you want about losing hobby frequencies, but don't point the finger at land mobile. We feel the pressure too.

    73
    N7JCT
  • by ONOIML8 ( 23262 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:37AM (#258302) Homepage
    The FCC has been using auctions for the last few years to insure that small business can't clutter up the spectrum. A few more years of auctions and it will only be large, multi-billion dollar corporations and the FCC's job will be much easier because the will just do what those few corporations tell them to do.

    Small time guys like me who want to make a buck in communications will have only one choice: pimp services for the big corporations. We won't be allowed to run our own systems nor will our customers. We won't be allowed any spectrum to create and develop new services either because their auctioning off the amateur spectrum as well.
  • So now the government for the people, will have to PAY private corporations to talk to ....itself? This ties in greatly with campaign reform, now politicians will have to have major $$$ behind them to air commercials on the air to run for office. Who is going to supply them with the money? Major corporations of course. (Oil anyone?)

    Considering you can't really "own" the land you live on (the minute you don't pay tax, it's not yours anymore) how can they just outright sell the airwaves to private corporations...they belong to US...the people!

    I'm sorry, the FTAA and the WTO pale in comparison to this issue. Workers can always unite, unions can always sprout up in the most deplorable conditions, but when you sell the most important means of communication in the 21st century from the people, I think we have a problem.

    I can't wait to see the protests on this one.

    Goodbye PBS, goodbye public access television, goodbye CBC and the BBC, goodbye.
  • Ha, lower taxes. Where you see this money is in the stock price and dividends for media companies. Those that are invested here are the ones who get the cash. Lower taxes, nice, funny.
    --
  • I can live on a piece of land. I can't do that with air. Of course you could say that I could rent out the air and get some land, but then I'd be using money, not the actual product.

    Then there's the whole "what is this thing used for?" question. Air frequencies will by used to transmit communication services. They don't get used up, this is the only infinite characteristic they exhibit. There are most definitely a limited number of usable ones in any particular geography. This was industry's argument againt Low-Power FM radio, that it would interfere with their commercial signals and degrade service. Both sides submitted conflicting studies, the industry's later turned out to be "extrapolations on lab data". But going back to the differences between air frequencies and land.

    You can't corrupt air frequencies. No matter how much Howard Stern or Radio Free Europe comes across the airwaves, you can switch it over the next day. Try that with industrial real estate.

    I like my government having a trump card over the media industry. I've seen too many examples of the power of communication abused, it's so close to that right now anyway. I don't think we need to go the rest of the way. I'm not really sure exactly how things are right now as far as licences go, but I like to think that abuses have some form of punishment. Remove a central authority that represent the interests of the public and you lose that. In 10 years 2 or 3 companies would decide what gets transmitted, anywhere, anytime. And charge you a pretty penny for it.
    --
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:29AM (#258306) Homepage
    Feel free to argue that nobody should own the airwaves, and that anybody should be able to transmit on a frequency that nobody else is currently using. That's not what Jeremy is arguing. He's arguing that central planning is smarter than the market. Well, Jeremy, get a clue: the failure of the Soviet Union buried that corpse of an idea.
    -russ
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <snowfox&snowfox,net> on Sunday April 29, 2001 @07:05AM (#258307) Homepage
    No, it's not exactly what you were talking about. You said,
    "Nobody's forcing you to go digital"

    Either you don't understand the issue or you are being economical with the truth. Unfortunately if you want to watch TV in the UK after 2005, you will be forced to buy into digital TV because analog TV transmission will cease in 2005.

    No, you'll be forced to buy a tuner. You can bet there will be 1,001 set-top products available that receive and rebroadcast on channel 2/3/whatever.

    ---
    My opinions are mine.

  • You're right, of course, but I did say "again."
  • by alecto ( 42429 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @04:41AM (#258309) Homepage
    I wonder what the future of microbroadcasting would be like were this to happen. What would you do if you could buy a little slice of your local spectrum?

    Don't worry, the media conglomerates likely won't leave any little slice for you and I to buy, and on the off chance they do, it'll come with a seven figure price tag.

    The spectrum shouldn't be sold (to the highest bidder, or any private entity)--if this is allowed, then the U.S. government will have again abdicated its rightful role as steward of the airwaves for the less lofty role of plundering profiteer.

  • Governments made quite a few of these decisions based entirely on personal connections and lobbying, guaranteeing that taxpayers didn't even have a chance to get a fair shake.

    That's why an auction is the most fair way. It's not fair, but it's the most fair. Everyone gets a shot to throw their money in and try to outbid everyone else.

    The fact that these corporations think that they have a chance to buy the spectrum implies that they certainly aren't going to pay a fair price for it.

    Well, if it's an auction, SOMEONE's got to be the high bidder, right? Even if they're paying far less than what they'll make in the long run, they'll still be paying more than anyone else was willing to pay.
    ----
    "Here to discuss how the AOL merger will affect consumers is the CEO of AOL."

  • I can't argue with most of that. I'd imagine one solution would be to auction 10-year rights to given frequencies. Now, I know that would be a mess, and probably give the hardware people an excuse to make you upgrade every time they had to move to a different frequency. Hmmmmm. Think think think....

    As a college radio artist/DJ, I am fully aware of the power of small-time radio. I wish every neighborhood could have what my college has - particularly the more poor ones in my hometown - because it really creates community. Not to mention the fact that if I paid for my house and land, and you're broadcasting across it, I should get a say in what you're broadcasting.

    Can anyone think of a solution that doesn't put too much arbitary decision-making power or overregulation in the hands of the government, but lets the little guys have a fair shot?

    OR do you think that eventually the entire spectrum will be binary data, and cheap Radio-over-IP devices will level the playing field for everyone? Just imagine flicking on your NetRadio and choosing between Radio Pakistan, Joe Bob's Confederate Rock, 24-hour Geeks in Space, and ten thousand others....
    ----
    "Here to discuss how the AOL merger will affect consumers is the CEO of AOL."

  • I can't red the actual plan since it's slasdotted, but it sounds like part of it is to give the ownership of presently used spectrum to the current users.

    If so, these frequences would be handed over to whatever organisation(s) there is for hamradio.

    Having these frequences as property would ensure their continued existance much more than the present system where they can be revoked at the whim of any lobbyist greasing the right wheels at the FCC and their bosses.
  • It helps to define what the word "own" means.

    Basically, to own X is the same as having the right to do what you want with X, without anyone else interfering with it. You also have the right to transfer ownership to others. If someone uses X without your permission, they are stealing or trespassing on it, and you can get the legal system to help defend your property rights.

    This is perfectly applicable to the electro-magnetic spectrum. And clearly, right now the FCC owns it all. That is why you have beg and protest to them to be able to continue to use your part of it.

    If these frequences were your property you would not have to beg or grovel for anyone. They would be yours, as they rightfully are, to do with what you please, asking permission from no one.

  • by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @10:58AM (#258314) Homepage
    Your argument is based on the assumption that the entire frequency spectrum will be given/sold to one monopolistic entity you call "corporations".

    There is of course no such proposal and no such entity. If frequencies were treated as property, it would behave just like any other tradable commodity, with a huge variety of owners and usages.

    The current system is a government monopoly run by the FCC, which for most purposes act as a proxy for the major media companies through the normal ways that the governenment is controlled by big money and special interest. Rest assured that they are very happy that people believe the current system is run in the interests of the people and that chaos would ensue were the government's power to be relinquished.

  • by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @09:46AM (#258315) Homepage
    The arguments heard here against frequency ownership are the same as the standard ones against land ownership. "What if somebody bought all the land" etc.

    Yet experience shows very clearly that private ownership of land is one of the key factors in the prosperity and freedom of nations and people. Not only is private land ownership the basis for economic well being, there is no recorded example of political freedom without it.

    So you need to explain what makes radio frequencies work the opposite way. I've yet to see any such example.

    One difference that would seem to make frequencies even less likely to be monopolized is that there is an infinite number (in theory, in practice at least several thousand) of frequencies in every geographical location, so you can have many different owners in one location, as opposed to land where there can only be one.

    I think we can all agree that in the present system the FCC has a monopolistic control of the airwaives. And I would argue that the FCC in turn is controlled by the major media corporations through lobbying and contributions and through the usual symbiosis between the regulator and the regulated. Moving to a property based system would actually break the grip the media giants have.
  • I can remember a time when I didn't get spam & my email adress was public on the NNTP feeds.
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @09:39AM (#258317) Homepage Journal
    On February 7, 37 leading US economists signed a joint letter asking the federal communications commission (FCC) to allow broadcasters to lease spectrum they currently license from the government in secondary markets....Still, the notion of selling off the US airwaves to private commercial interests seemed a bit too ambitious, even for the most experienced Washington corporate lobbyists.

    The big boys acquire their frequency allocations through their political connections and political appeals to ideas like "the people's airwaves", then they want to lease "their" airwaves out? Why don't they lease their air-waves from the government? After all, without the government defending their legal entitlements to the air-waves, there would be little value in owning the air waves.

    Rifkin is right to be concerned about the double-standards, injustices and dangers of this situation, but the same problem exists with all real estate and, indeed, wealth in general -- it is just called out in stark relief by frequency spectrum allocations.

    As one of the key players in obtaining the first Ka-band allocation from the FCC, I am here to tell you the system of allocations is rigged to hand power over to the politically connected. I won't go into all the stuff we had to do to get a new spectrum licensed, but it wasn't pretty. I'll just stay this: Had it not been for the fact that I volunteered as a get-out-the-vote phone coordinator for Rep. George Brown, chairman of the House committee on Space and Science, I wouldn't have been able to contribute much to the opening of that new spectrum.

    It was largely as a result of that experience in trying to advance technological frontiers with the US Federal Government that I came up with a white paper on a net asset tax [ibm.com] to not only offload tax burdens from capital gains, income and sales, but also to open up all undefined assets to private claims without government intervention, except as defender of the legal system under which claims to those rights were made valuable assets.

    The Telecommunications Act of 1934 got government into the business of handing out "the people's airwaves" to the politically connected media giants (a pattern that is continuing to this day with Reston, VA-based AOL/Time-Warner enjoying a government assist against Microsoft), as well as establishing a state-backed monopoly on wire communications. I'm actually of the opinion that the banking panic of 1907, the great stock market crash of 1929 and the New Economy Crash of 2000 were, all, part of a pattern in which new media technologies are created, social controls are being threatened and capital manipulations occur in such a way as to depress prices of newly emerging media companies enabling them to be bought on the cheap. Such social controls need not, of course, be consciously planned since they may be evolutionary emergent controls and evolution is, almost by definition, not a conscious process. Nevertheless, if this theory is correct, then just as cinema came under the control of a few giants after 1907 and broadcast came under the control of those same giants after 1929 (via the TCA of 1934), the NASDAQ crash of 2000 may allow giants to buy up and centralize Web/Internet media assets on the cheap. This sort of nonsense is profoundly destructive to culture, itself the basis of human social organization including technological advances, given the key role media companies play in defining culture.

    Ultimately, this gets back to the true nature of "fiat" money and how otherwise worthless assets acquire value with the assurance of rights by warriors [geocities.com].

  • Ah yes, Jeremy Rifkin, "The most hated man in science." [sciam.com].

  • There is no public interest in a society without a public composed of citizens. Consumers do not agregate into a public but into "demand".

    Reading these two sentences one might be surprised to learn that "citizens" and "consumers" are in fact the same entity also called humans. Society is made up of people. People can play different rolls, they can buy things and they can vote for things both are among many ways that people can express their humanity. Voting is not a divine path to the "public good."

  • Why is it admissible to make recommendations about communication media, an issue which has fundamental relevance to democracy, without the word "citizen" mentionned? Indeed, you might read the whole letter and get the impression that communication has nothing to do with politics. Do you/they really believe that?

    Im not sure I understand this... the letter was written to change government policy clearly the authors regard the topic as political! The question is weather the government ought own the radio spectrum. I believe no, and the economist seem to agree with me. The government does not own any major component of the printing industry which is another major media of comunications? Should we make all printing presses be leased from the government to ensure balanced coverage? Which has a better airing of minority views, the printed media or the broadcast media?


    Now since you criticize my criticism of the letter written by the 37 as being exceesively uni-dimensional, could you please quote the place in the letter that shows that the authors are aware of those human dimensions that go beyond consumption, and craft their recommendations with this awareness in mind?

    I will grant you that the authors used econ-speak, but the were clearly aware that there are political concers. So here is the letters econ-speak quote "While 'Market Failures' can move resouce allocation away from its socialy optimal point, attempts to fix such failures are neither free nor fail-proof..." (the quote is from the bottom of page 3) The paper then goes on to advocate the establishment of rights and resposobilities to hadle such problems. You may not think this will work but it is recomendation aimed at interests that are "beyond the market" This is the most clear example but not the only one...the allowance of regulation for anti-competitice behavior being another.


    . From a democratic perspective, the public good is not given, and the road to the public good is difficult to find, and that is why we need a public square where we can meet and discuss the public good.

    I fear that hear we would have to expand this discussion into the full field of philosopy... The central question is weather or not markets (ie people making voluntairy agreements) are a better way of finding the public good (some composition of individual goods) or weather a government (institution with a monopoly on the use of force) democraticaly choosen is best. And in particular which is a better mechanism for the broadcast spectrum. This is a huge topic which ultimatly must be decided (as far as truth is concerned) on the basis of empirical evidence. I believe the markets are clearly better and you do not. But the ability to discuss the public good is not at issue, what is at issue is the process for acting. The good has been discussed since before the radio spectrum was discovered, the discusion can not be controled by government or any private orginization.

  • The only method of finding the public good I am aware of is discussion, i.e. the unfettered exchange of ideas via means of communication.

    Well we are now having a discussion :)

    There are two related activities. Discovering the truth and acting to achieve values. Discussion at best can lead you to the truth, but by itself will not cause the action needed to create value (aside from intelectual stimulation). I think discussion is an important element in arriving at consensus about the truth and is important to bring out the truth as well. But scietific studies are what is needed to provde the data that a discussion would need to be succesfull. I do not mean to imply that you disagree with this, just thought i would point it out.

    Let me mention a second thougt. It is not neccessary to understand why something works or know the theory behind it in order to successfully act to achieve a given value. To take an example from David Friedmans "Hidden Order," a person can walk successfully without knowing the details about how to walk as difficulties in attempts to get robots to walk shows.


    Because of this you would expect a suggestion about the best way to allocate the spectrum to be mostly concerned not with the efficiency of resource allocation but with the oppeness and comprehensiveness of the public discussion that will result. It seems to me that the quality of the news, for example, is more important to a democratic society than the efficient transition to HDTV. I don't know how the new proposal will affect the quality of the news. Given the present dismall state of affairs, the change might even be for the better. But it is instructive that the authors couldn't care less. For them the only question is efficiency and growth. THAT is the problem, not markets vs. planning.

    My guess is that the authors don't know what would produce the best discussion either. This kind of thing would be extrodianaly difficuly to predict. Markets will produce what people will consume. If people want good discusions they are likely to get them. But very few people want them.


    The very fact that most Americans are unaware of the complex machinations that drive the FCC's decisions, because it is a subject never covered in depth by the news ( or simply never covered), is proof that the discussion can be controlled.

    I don't agree, the reason they are unaware is because they are uninterested. If c-span were to run a 4hour special on the issue how many people do you think would tune in to watch? I don't know what c-spans ratings are but i am not very hopeful. There is a bunch of litriture on the topic but I doubt the journals articles and books on the allocation of broadcst resources are read by many. I have only read a few essays and articles myself, I am relativly interested in the subject for being completly outside the industry. Further I would argue that people, based on thier own values and needs, should not be interested and should not watch a 4 hour c-span special on the issue. Because they do not care about it, and it has only a minor effect on them relative to all the other things they can think and learn about and finaly they have a very low likelyhood of being able to influence it. Probably it would be better to spend time thinking about education, or how to get more free time to spend with your children or ect ect....


    For them the only question is efficiency and growth. THAT is the problem, not markets vs. planning.

    But markets vs planning is what the government is going to decide to do. It is the area that these economists believe they are experts in. It seems natural that they would focus on this. Perhaps the sociologist and the anthropologists should write a letter about the impacts this will have on discussions of the public good. Although I am sceptical that they would have anything well grounded to say. I view market efficiency as a extremly important thing a life and death issue. The main thing that differentiates life in America from North Korea. ( I agree that I just got on a big tree limb there...but i think it is supported) Market efficieny is a means of getting people what they value with the least cost. So again if people really value discussion then the market will efficiently provide them with forums for discussion. If people don't value it, then forcing it on them is not likely to help. People rarely like things that are forced upon them, even if they would be otherwise enjoyable. The question of how valuable it is to discuss the pubic good and how to encourage people to participate in the discussion, does not seem like something one would write a letter about to the FCC. Perhaps writing a editorial for a news paper or something targeded at the public that is to have the discussion would be a good idea. But it is very vauge to me how this relates to weather or not the spectrum is owned by the government and licensed to private people or if it is owned by the private peole and is regulated and policed by the government as the economist advocate.


    Thank you for your reply


    Rob Sperry
    rws1st@yahoo.com
  • Oh god, a hippy.

    They had hippies in 1949, when Pacifica [pacifica.org] was founded?

    I personally find that Pacifica is in line with the social teachings of the Catholic Church, except, unfortunately, on the issue of abortion. In particular, Pacifica reflects the anti-government anti-corporate anti-globalism attitude shared by many Slashdotters. The slogan for their flagship program Democracy Now! [democracynow.org] is "the exception to the rulers."

  • With maybe the exception of NPR, it's all one corporation-controlled, homogenized, music-industry record promotion tool.

    You must not live in an area that has a Pacifica [pacifica.org] station, which is better than NPR. But even Pacifica is being infiltrated [iacenter.org] now.

  • AH, your logic is flawed....they did indeed attack mp3.com, they just didn't have as much of a legal stake to drive into its heart like they do with Napster. And they will attack mp3.com again, when they're done gutting Napster. Right now they're trying to go after the easier legal target and maybe establish some precedents favorable to them.
  • by browser_war_pow ( 100778 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:11AM (#258325) Homepage
    Why not have the US government mandate that all frequencies in the next 10 years or so be used soly for digital/internet broadcasts so that way all of those internet radio stations can become real radio stations. Just think you'll be able to tune into mp3.com and more.
  • I would agree that nobody's being forced to go digital. Personally, I don't care about TV, analog or digital.

    I've already left TV in favor of books, the internet, and Other Things.

    People are being forced off of analog, though, and that sucks. I agree with you and the poster you are replying to.

    This could be made into a good thing, though, by increasing the numbers of people who have left beind TV and movies altogether. Trouble is, in order to make it a good thing for you, you'd have to leave TV.
  • If the goverment didn't controll the airwaves who would? The huge megacorps, that's who. Radio stations run by the public now are very few, but if huge companies are allowed to buy up the airwaves then they will become extinct.
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\=\=\
  • by Dunkelzahn ( 106055 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @07:06AM (#258328) Homepage
    Had I been moderating your comment, I would have given you a +1, insightful. Anywho, I agree with your post. I am currently studying to get a HAM license some time in the future, as I know that if the sh*t hit the proverbial fan, which is indeed possible looking at the writing on the wall of the world today, amateur radio would indeed keep a line of communications open in communities hard-hit with a natural disaster or a war. They don't talk much in the media about how helpful amateur radio has been in the past, in places like Croatia, or other places where a natural disaster or war has hit and amateur radio was able to get the real stories out. Art Bell [artbell.com], a radio talk show host on the nighttime airwaves has spoken about amateur radio a bit, but only because he is also a ham himself. Cheers.

  • I do not believe I stated that the founders of Pacifica were hippies. Its the current listening audience that's a bunch of PRO-government socialists. (They just don't like the current government of the USA, that doesn't make one anti-government.) More rules more laws less freedom.

    I make no bones about the fact that most of my hatred of Pacifica stems from KPFA/B kicking the Maximum RockNRoll show off the air. Pacifica believes in all freedoms, except for the freedom of Thought.

  • Ok, so maybe news, traffic, and sports scores are reasons to keep your radio (along with NPR and good college stations). For music, the extra cost of a portable MP3 player would be greatly outweighed by the ability to listen to what I want to hear without commercials or idiot DJs.

    But ignoring that, can you tell me how deregulating the allocation on radio bandwidth would significantly harm the state of radio today?
    I ask because most of the criticism I was seeing had to do with "corporations evil, deregulation bad", despite the fact that the airwaves are 99% corporation-controlled, anyway.

  • by wunderhorn1 ( 114559 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:26AM (#258331)
    Radio *sucks* now. How could deregulation make it any worse?

    I mean, seriously. With maybe the exception of NPR, it's all one corporation-controlled, homogenized, music-industry record promotion tool.
    The gov't puts some restrictions on how much of the airwaves one company can broadcast on in a given market, but all that really means is that the conglomerates trade stations between themselves in order to maximize their market share up to the current limit.

    The internet has made radio passe. Let it go.

  • Government could probably make more money leasing out spectrum on an annual basis. That way, the rates could go up every year, and it would be a real moneymaker. A TV channel in a major metropolitan market might bring in a billion a year. This could lead to a tax cut.
  • "Maybe, but doesn't that power-seeking also apply to the government?" Frankly I'd rather see the government control the airwaves than a corporation. I can elect people to control the government, I can't elect people to control a corporation. It's not like the spectrum is a renewable resource. Once it's sold you can't get it back. Police/Fire/Ambulance services would have to pay through the nose to use radios, ham radio would be completely eliminated since it's not profitable, local radio stations would have no use anymore. I can't see any benefit whatsoever to money-hungry corporations controlling the spectrum any more than I can see benefit to them controlling the roads.
  • Oh, SUUUURE. That explains why nobody owns their own house in the US. Oh, wait they do... See, one of the better analogies of the spectrum is land. It too is a valuable comodity, there's a fixed supply, although we can use less of it if neccesary (high-rises), and only one person can use it at a time (in any given location, that is). Now, what your arguing is that the goverment should own ALL land in the US, because only that would stop corporations from owning all the land. It hasn't worked that way--nor have experiments where the goverment HAS owned all the land... Or to put it another way, the reasons that a mythical "Land Corporation" doesn't own every scrap of real estate in the US is the same has why a mythical "Broadcast Corporation" won't own every scrap of airwaves. Oh, and recall that the profits to be made from land are MUCH higher than airwaves, since housing is a much more vital need than wireless networks. Just look at housing prices in Silicon Valley. Honestly, do you corporate conspiracy people even put your brains in gear? And as for the poor deluded fools who think the GOVERMENT is a good "steward"... Heh. Just look at who the FCC has divied up all the current bandwidth to! At least privatization would put bandwidth in the hands of them that have something to DO with it (and thus will pay money for it). It might not help you and me get any bandwidth (although it might) but it'd certainly help. And if the privatization was smart, they'd leave the current public use sections OUT of the mix, and sell bandwith in TINY TINY chunks. And in any case, my vote is that wireless networks will ALWAYS be a side show. They might cover the "last 5 feet" from your comp to the nearest ground station on the fibre optic network...but that's probably it. There just isn't enough bandwidth for anything more, even if the spectrum IS privatized. You think any reasonable chunk of spectrum can cover a whole cities demand for Britney Spears music video clips? :-)
  • Peter Dyck said "Government consists of people who have to think about getting re-elected every four to eight years. It's a form of mutual assured destruction. Politicians who screw with us won't get elected the next time."

    Well, in theory maybe. But consider that Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were both overwhelmingly reelected; probably most people who voted (or would have voted) for one of these guys probably would consider the other to be objectionable. Result? All screwed, all the time, news at 11.

    Ted Kennedy (Oh, Ted) continues to be elected time after time despite -- and this is not what I'd like on my resume, but I guess for the Senate they have different admissions standards -- *drowing his date by driving off a bridge drunk*. You have to be at least 1 generation away from JFK laterally to actually come to trial for such things, evidently. (The laundry list of crimes and other objectionable acts committed by the current batch of miscreants in D.C. could make TV evangelism seem like a den of saints ... every time one of those jerks double parks or blocks an ambulance entry with no penalty, the rest of us are belittled while they laugh; that several have been credibly accused or rape and other violent crimes but not touched because of their office is even worse.)

    Probably you have a "favorite" politician or two who clearly spends more time screwing (in whichever sense you find makes sense) than doing good, and gets elected again anyhow.

    Electability is different from good done in office, by a very long way. Bread and circuses.

    Added to which, most FCC and other agency bureacrats (the word may be pejorative, but I can think of no better one, and heck, I *mean* it pejorative!) aren't tied to the election cycle anyhow. Some of the top posts are, and there's a trickle down effect, but most Federal workers don't become unemployed based on the election cycle. Maybe they should -- we could require politicians to run on a ticket basis that goes beyond President and VP -- entire complete-government teams would be required, with a sudden-death phase, too. But as it stands, only the few offices near the top are true political appointments, and in some cases, even they survive administrations. They do know the ropes, (the ties that bind, so to speak).

    And on Boycotts? Bus boycotts in Alabama which hastened desegregation. Not only that, but a bit like brandishing a weapon rather than actually firing it, sometimes a boycott only needs to exert enough pressure to win it's point, not bring the company to its knees. 7-11 no longer carries porn (thanks / no thanks -- your pick) thanks to long-term boycotts by religious groups. It's been a while, and 7-11 still doesn't carry 'em. I bet the boycotters could claim that as a victory. When's the last time a boycott against government worked? (And corporations don't draft people and send them to shoot people they might not be inclined to shoot, or send people to jail for possessing a marijuana seed ... heck, I bet the local quickie mart would love to sell you a 5-pack of marijuana cigarettes legally, let's say $10 for a nice package of guaranteed-quality pot, with lung-saving filter ... I digress.)

    Anyhow.

    simon

  • by simonwagstaff ( 173538 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:45AM (#258338) Homepage
    my much longer reply just got wiped out by a segfault, so this one is shorter for my own sanity and that of the reader ;)

    - jamie mccarthy said "no sane company would lessen its stranglehold of control anyway, unless forced to by the government."

    Maybe, but doesn't that power-seeking also apply to the government? The U.S. govt. is one of the most liberal (old sense) on earth, in fact the U.S. govt in fact probably comes closer than any other I can think of as perhaps an adequate / worthwhile one to regulate broadcasting. But consider that this government (no not a monolith, but enough of a coherent whole I think it bears this abuse fairly) loves to spy on its own citizens at several levels (and always pushes to expand this little privilege), violently apprehends the use and users of *certain* recreational substances, and speaking of radio, threatens stations whose content the FCC doesn't like with license withdrawal, fines, etc.

    In effect, the big corporations already own the airwaves (since they can afford lawyers, licenses, transmitters) with some small and carefully allowed exceptions, because the FCC is establishmentarian as any govt agency. Despite a few years of softer talk on it, the FCC still raids and confiscates the equipement of even tiny stations transmitting in local dead air and thus not interfering with anyone else's broadcast. (that's maybe my favorite illustrative evil deed of the FCC -- not only pointless, but destructive of liberty and a great discouragement to involvement.) Authority likes to assert itself and grow, the arrogance of power, etc etc.

    More important -- But what about in countries like ... oh, Albania, North Korea, etc? Not that the FCC has dominion there ;) but they demonstrate why the government ought not be the real owner ("steward" isn't how I'd describe them) of the airwaves. Radio should be as unregulated as practical in the U.S. and other relatively free places for the same reason it should be but isn't in the obviously un-free places. *That's* where there are actual strangleholds on content that go beyond priggishness and artifical "two sides of story" dichotomies.

    Wouldn't it be nice if one (or better, two or three!) of the horrible corporations would start broadcasting news, music and weather on the eights with updates on the hour in ... Tibet, say, or Havana? I think so, but I may be crazy.

    And there are anti-monopoly laws, total-power output rules etc that there's no reason to think would be changed by this (whatever you think of those laws, heh); Basically this little privatization plan sounds like trading one form of govt/private radio system (the current one) for a slightly more free market one, rather than declaring radio anarchy outright, gutting small children who stand in the way, etc.

    simon

    p.s. secondary motivation would be to wake up, turn on radio, hear " ... shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits ... and 'tits' doesn't even belong on the list!", smile, and say "now you can say them on the radio!"

  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:38AM (#258339) Journal
    For more of a taste of the issues of low power broadcasting, check out
    • This typical news story [kentuckyconnect.com] as seen in the Lexington Herald Leader.
    • the Free Radio Berkley page [freeradio.org]
    • The FCC policy page [fcc.gov]

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @04:50AM (#258340) Journal
    There has been an ongoing fight to have FM radio stations licensed that would only be 100 watt stations. The idea is that this would be perfect for colleges, non-profits, etc.

    for some strange reason this has been opposed by the bigger interests.

    So I see this, and I think that this is somethng that the "big boys" would like only so long as they have their fingers in the pie. In this regard, this is compatible with the business aims of entities similar to the RIAA, MPAA, the Microsoft Monopoly, etc.

    The little fellow is not allowed direct ownership, just to hand over money on a continuing basis. This has interesting imnplications for political speech.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • Reading these two sentences one might be surprised to learn that "citizens" and "consumers" are in fact the same entity also called humans

    "featherless carbon based bipeds" is also a good definition for humans. The choire of terms is guided by our interests and perception of relevance. Why is it admissible to make recommendations about communication media, an issue which has fundamental relevance to democracy, without the word "citizen" mentionned? Indeed, you might read the whole letter and get the impression that communication has nothing to do with politics. Do you/they really believe that? Or is this really an exercise in newspeak.

    People can play different rolls

    My point exactly. Now since you criticize my criticism of the letter written by the 37 as being exceesively uni-dimensional, could you please quote the place in the letter that shows that the authors are aware of those human dimensions that go beyond consumption, and craft their recommendations with this awareness in mind? I did not say that people aren't consumers, but the letter clearly recommends that we view communication as nothing more than a marketable and consumable object.

    Voting is not a divine path to the ?public good.?

    Indeed, but neither is economic growth. From a democratic perspective, the public good is not given, and the road to the public good is difficult to find, and that is why we need a public square where we can meet and discuss the public good. The economist theology of the letter believes on the contrary that the public good is known and beyond discussion --economic growth, and therefore that there is nothing to discuss and that the public square is just another piece of real-estate which me might as well sell.

  • I fear that hear we would have to expand this discussion into the full field of philosopy... The central question is weather or not markets (ie people making voluntairy agreements) are a better way of finding the public good (some composition of individual goods) or weather a government (institution with a monopoly on the use of force) democraticaly choosen is best. And in particular which is a better mechanism for the broadcast spectrum. This is a huge topic which ultimatly must be decided (as far as truth is concerned) on the basis of empirical evidence. I believe the markets are clearly better and you do not. But the ability to discuss the public good is not at issue, what is at issue is the process for acting. The good has been discussed since before the radio spectrum was discovered, the discusion can not be controled by government or any private orginization.

    Obviously, the issue is philosophical, but your description of it misses the point. Market cannot find the public good because that is not their purpose. Well regulated markets allocate resources better and more efficiently than either beaurocrats or unregulated markets. This is well documented in economic theory and well supported with evidence. However, it is a question of public good whether, in any particular situation, efficient resource allocation is the most important goal or whether other goals should take precedence. This is a political decision and markets can find the best political answer no better than steam engines can cure cancer -- this is no mere 'market failure' which can be corrected by regulation, it is a category mistake. We could have a market in babies that will allocate the best babies to the richest parents. That would eliminate a lot of inefficiencies and may even dispense with the cumbersome financial aid system at universities. Yet we chose not to do it from purely political reasons. The democratically (or not) chosen government is not a method of finding the public good either, it is a method of governing, i.e. implementing, and at time proposing, political decisions, including decisions about which markets to encourage and which to supress. The only method of finding the public good I am aware of is discussion, i.e. the unfettered exchange of ideas via means of communication.

    Because of this you would expect a suggestion about the best way to allocate the spectrum to be mostly concerned not with the efficiency of resource allocation but with the oppeness and comprehensiveness of the public discussion that will result. It seems to me that the quality of the news, for example, is more important to a democratic society than the efficient transition to HDTV. I don't know how the new proposal will affect the quality of the news. Given the present dismall state of affairs, the change might even be for the better. But it is instructive that the authors couldn't care less. For them the only question is efficiency and growth. THAT is the problem, not markets vs. planning.

    Finally, your assertion that the discussion cannot be controlled is simply not true. The very fact that most Americans are unaware of the complex machinations that drive the FCC's decisions, because it is a subject never covered in depth by the news ( or simply never covered), is proof that the discussion can be controlled. Yes, this control has its limits, so you are right in that nobody can have absolute control of the flow of information. Unfortunately, the question is not whether absolute control is possible, but whether too much control is possible.

    I am not advocating any particular solution. I don't like the FCC. I have no faith in the US government as a democratic institution. And I think markets are efficient resource allocators. I don't know why you decided that I am against markets and for planning by central government. I am for open discussion and wide dissemination of public information, and the "experts" who are close to the FCC's ears aren't. That is my only beef.

  • Well we are now having a discussion :)

    Indeed, and I decided to reply even though by now the audience is probably very small :-)

    Markets will produce what people will consume. If people want good discusions they are likely to get them. But very few people want them.

    All your points are true but you make a faulty assumption and buy to easily into what is not science but fudge.

    You assume that the social benefits of a good news service is proportional to the number of people watching it. This is true of the economic benefits to the producer, but the social benefit is not proportional but follows a pattern of quickly diminishing returns. A News program seen by 20 Million people may generate twice the revenues of a news program seen by 10 million. But the additional benefit to society is not twice as big but far less. That is because a news program affects lots of people who don't watch it. First, there are informal networks of oral information distribution through friends, relatives, co-workers, etc. Some people, who care about the news more than others, tend to be trend-setters and information providers in their local networks. Second, other producers of intellectual goods use the news as raw material -- comedians, interviewers, filmmakers, sitcom writers, teachers, etc. Third, policy makers pay attention to the news and are alert to any description that affects their own image. In addition, even people who do not pay regular attention to the news care very much about getting good information in moments of crisis--war, disaster, etc. But it is impossible to have one level of regular service of low quality and then expect the same infrastructure to provide high quality under stress. By disseminating information well beyond its direct consumers, thus elevating the level of all policy debate, and by keeping government alert, quality journalism positively affect the quality of life of everyone. That is why journalism has been traditionaly ( in liberal thought, liberal as in Mill, not as in Clinton ) seen as the forth branch of government. Because of this difference in cost/benefit analysis, expecting markets to create good journalism just because markets respond to what people want to watch is guaranteed to fail, as producers will maximize their audience rather than the social benefits of good journalism ( which is connected to audience size but isn't proportional to it). In the nineteenth and early twentieth century that was not a major problem because the market for news was elitist and only the elites participated in policymaking. Thus, there was not such a dissonance between the economic benefits and the social benefits of news production. Today, the juncture of television and universal franchise requires new solutions.

    Now, we have two alternatives. We can try to find creative solutions to this problem or we can resign ourselves to living in a word where many of the most important decisions that affect our lives are made in a cloud of ignorance, and in a way that easily allows this ignorance to be manipulated for unholy purposes. I believe that very little in the current glory of our civilization has been achieved because people simply accepted their fate. But there were always those who advocated exactly that, because it suited them.

    The economists who wrote the letter want us to forget that there are other problems except those they can solve. Econo-speak fashions a language which, when used consistently, makes problems that are not easily expressed in that language disappear. They perform a role similar to that of the medieval theologian, whose language was designed to reconcile people to their measly fate. It is not that their theories are wrong, but that they capture (as all scientific theory must) a particular aspect of reality. When their expertise is used to stifle political discussion rather than to foster technical discussion, i.e., when the limitations of the theory is forgotten, it is then used as ideology and is no more scientific than medieval theology. The post that started this thread captured this disinginiousness well by the astute observation that the public interest appears in double quotation marks. Your suggestion that anthropologists and sociologists make alternative solutions doesn't seem to be very fair. First, they do not receive the same deferential and uncritical adulation by today's politicians the way economists do ( had Clinton had an anthropologist in the cabinet, Russia wouldn't have been in the mess it is in now). Second, I believe scientists can be responsible citizens, and should be taken to task when they use their expertise ideologically, beyond their proper scientific boundaries. If you have a hammer, you believe all the world's problem are nails. But if you are a scientist, you should have the integrity to acknoweldge that and warn the people you advise that some problems don't respond well to hammering.

    In the spirit of old-fashioned discussion :-)

  • by metis ( 181789 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:53AM (#258344) Homepage

    why do they put "public interest" in quotes.

    It gets worse. The first paragraph says that their plan will be of great benefit to "consumers, entrepreneurs, and the growth of our economy".

    That is the kind of thinking that distinguishes economic theory as ideological justification of the interests of corporations. There is no public interest in a society without a public composed of citizens. Consumers do not agregate into a public but into "demand".

    The 37 liers do not recognize a real "public interest" because they have no concept of citizenship and of public. They offer a political revolution but they pretend to say nothing political. "Objective" economic theory allows them to masquerade as technocrats offering "increased efficiency" without political implications.

    In itself, there is nothing wrong with selling off the spectrum and allowing a market to "create efficiencies", as long as one remembers the public purpose of markets, and especially the public function of communication. But as the letter clearly shows, the promoters of markets today have all but forgotten these public functions. Their only notion of the good is economic growth, and the only aspect of humanity they are aware of is consumption. Under such circumstances, their plan is an invitation for another corporate landgrab that will leave our society even poorer that it is.

    Of course, this letter comes just in time as the FCC got Little Powell as its new chairperson. Since Little Powell has made it clear that his idea of the public good is corporate welfare, I expect this proposition to given a serious and sympathetic airing.

  • The color TV broadcasting signal we have today is still compatible with black and white sets (which are still sold in stores, usually as battery operated portables).

    And according to this article [slashdot.org], there is a way to embed the digital signal into unused portions of the standarg analog signal.

    Now why do you want to forcibly obsolete analog TV again?

    You must be:
    (1) a MPAA/RIAA/WIPO control freak salivating at encrypted, unrecordable, pay per view everything or
    (2) in the electronics inustry salivating at being able to sell everyone another couple of TV sets for more money.

  • by Peter Dyck ( 201979 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:13AM (#258349)
    On the other hand, the privatization can also mean that the corporations can throw their huge financial weight around and monopolize the airwaves. I'd rather have a government monopoly than a commercial one.
  • by zentec ( 204030 ) <zentec@gmail.HORSEcom minus herbivore> on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:20AM (#258350)
    You mean Howard Stern is in the public good? Howard Stern is in the good of Infinity Broadcasting, a former part of CBS which was split from CBS (although CBS is a major stockholder) so CBS could own more stations in major markets. It's all out of hand. Local broadcasting is dead, 80% of the stations are owned by 4 large corporations. Outside of broadcasting, three major telcos own almost all of the cellular and PCS spectrum allocations, and anyone who wants to compete in the wireless Internet game needs to use unlicensed 2.4 and 5 gig spread spectrum bands. Let's face it, the FCC has sold out a long time ago. Simply calling it a lease is admitting to the current state of affairs. And courtesy of the NAB, some of those leaseholders paid nothing for their leases.
  • Just because half of the FCC, the single-source news media and all the other usual gangs of moneyed buffons question the practicality of LPFM doesn't mean we have to.

    LPFM is dead. NPR and the NAB went to congress and got them to pass a bill that gutted the original LPFM provisions, reducing the number of available licenses from hundreds, to a handful. I think there are only something like 10 LPFM slots left now. They convinced a technically ignorant congress that the FCC engineers were wrong.

    Even as LPFM was written before it was gutted, it would have been of little use to most people. An individual could not get a LPFM license, only community groups. This community group must have a local presence, within something like 10 miles of the transmitter. Former radio pirates would not be allowed to get LPFM licenses under any circumstances. One also had to get type-certified equipment, running in the thousands of dollars for a 100 watt transmitter, in addition to an Emergency Alert System reciever.

    I know, because I was going to apply on behalf of a group I belong to. The hundreds of pages of red tape made it nearly impossible, and now congress has nearly killed it.
    -

  • The Amateur Radio Service goodbye. THIS service is microbroadcasting at

    Not quite. It is illegal to broadcast on the ham radio bands. Note the distinction between broadcast, (one to many), and transmit (emit energy).

    We only have very limited things we can broadcast, such as what's necessary to initiate a point to point communication (calling CQ), or broadcasting things only of interest to the Ham Radio community in general (ARRL bullitins, and CW practice broadcasts). Ham is not a soapbox, it does not allow you to diseminate your opinions to a mass audience. It exists solely as a one to one medium for hobbyists.
    -

  • by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @09:29AM (#258356) Journal
    One last portion is given out to the public to do whatever they please with.

    Yeah, we got that, it's called CB radio. The FCC has long stopped enforcement of all but the most flagrent violators on the CB bands. Tune it in some day and listen to what happens to bands with no regulation. It isn't pretty.
    -

  • by HongPong ( 226840 ) <(moc.gnopgnoh) (ta) (gnopgnoh)> on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:49PM (#258359) Homepage
    Tune in now! hongpong on the FM dial! 97.1267 MHz! All hong all the time!

    Oh goodie goodie I would like this!

    --

  • by Eladio McCormick ( 226942 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @04:56AM (#258360)
    I wonder what the future of microbroadcasting would be like were this to happen. What would you do if you could buy a little slice of your local spectrum?

    What most people would do is figure out they could sell it to the big players for big bucks, thus killing off microbroadcasting. Hell, the corps could even buy the spectrum just to remove competition.

    Anyway, the US gov is slowly selling off more and more of the public good to big corporations to make a profit. The communications corporations were licensed the spectrum in order to serve the public good, not themselves.

  • by theDigitizer ( 239913 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @04:51AM (#258361) Homepage Journal
    The airwaves have been used for close to 80 years for dissemination of news, entertainment, and information. Being a Radio/Television major, we study trends and media convergence all the time. The growing trend if one looks at the big picture, is that we are less dependent on those airwaves more and more everyday.

    I can give three important examples: Cable, Satellite, and most importantly, Internet. Cable came first, and let some of our content be off of the air. Then came satellite, which took our content, and made it possible to send just about anywhere. Finally came the Internet, which is toplling the old line structure altogether.

    The only reason the government licensed the airwaves was because of scarcity of spectrum space. However, it is quite obvious that with the Internet, there is no scarcity. Any Joe can make a website. (or even start a website company) THe Internet is still, realistically, in its infancy compared with other media. THe unique thing about the Internet however, is that it IS all media. Print, video, film, audio, music, art, and everything else come together to form the MULTImedia experience that is the Internet.

    The Airwaves just might not be needed anymore.

    (Although I'm opposed to broadcasters selling off what they LICENSE, since the airwaves are PUBLIC DOMAIN)
    -Digitizer


  • You're wrong in your first, second, and third sentences.

    1. I am part of the market, and I am not voluntarily taking myself to digital TV/radio.

    2. They're stopping the analog TV transmission to raise license revenue from mobile communications use of the auctioned spectrum.

    3. Analog TVs represent over 90% of the UK market -- not exactly a minority!


  • No, it's not exactly what you were talking about. You said,

    • "Nobody's forcing you to go digital"

    Either you don't understand the issue or you are being economical with the truth. Unfortunately if you want to watch TV in the UK after 2005, you will be forced to buy into digital TV because analog TV transmission will cease in 2005.

  • by Wills ( 242929 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:38AM (#258367)

    Why should I want technological restrictions on the manner of my viewing and listening with digital TV/radio?

  • by Wills ( 242929 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:26AM (#258368)

    Actually the analog TV spectrum will cease to exist in the UK from 2005, thus disabling all analog TV reception. It's not a question of cost or of Luddism. Simply I do not need digital TV/radio because I'm happy with what I've got.

  • by Wills ( 242929 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:14AM (#258369)

    Digital TV/radio is supposedly the thing. But for me all I want is a picture on screen and sound from the speakers. Digital TV/radio is simply a technology I don't need or want. Not for me the feature-bloated digital receiver units with time-shift recording/copy lock-out technology. I say this because there is nothing wrong with my analog TV and analog radio. I get an adequate picture and sound. I can record any program without technological restriction. The times and manner of my viewing and listening are under my control. In short, analog is enough for me.

    Unfortunately in the UK, the government announced this week that the entire analog TV spectrum will be sold by auction in 2005, meaning that millions of people who are happy with their analog TV sets will be forced in 2005 to spend $200-300 per set on a forced upgrade to a proprietary adapter unit (or else sign up to a restrictive rental agreement) in order to be able to receive digital TV broadcasts. This will affect all TV channels including the UK's national public television service BBC TV. I and millions of others will be forced to go digital from 2005, enforcing the various unwanted usage lock-out technologies that come with digital TV/radio.

  • by Wills ( 242929 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:31AM (#258370)

    A footnote: the UK's entire analog TV spectrum is being sold for mobile communications use.

  • by LordArathres ( 244483 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @04:48AM (#258371) Homepage
    I don't think you could do much with the airwaves except express your point of view. You couldnt play any music, the RIAA would beat you with a law stick. You could not report the sports, lest the different sports agencies beat you with their law sticks, or bats depending on the agency. You would be able to express your view. A view that the place we now live in is getting more and more fucked up by the day. A place where you might get sued if you reveal how you broke a copy-protection scheme, by the people who ASKED you do break it. You cannot post your own guitar tablature for others to view. You cannot like dark music, dress gothic and go to school lest people think you might SNAP! and start shooting people. You cannot imagine when the last time you did not get spam was. You cannot talk about your gun collection and knife and sword collection at work because you will be labeled off and fired for being a threat to safety. All these and more you can say on the radio, not many people will listen to you as they do not care about such things as privacy. Most dont care about how many databases contain their address, name, phone numbers for every place they have lived in the last 15 years. For the most part people will say "If it does not affect me, why should I care." they, of course, do not realize that by the time it does affect them it will be too late.

    So tell me, what would YOU do with your airtime. I for one would not spend a single dime on something that I can do for free. I can post my views, I can talk to people and I can say whatever I damn well please. I would not pay to say it because The Bill of Rights says I DO NOT HAVE TO!

    Arathres


    I love my iBook. I use it to run Linux!
  • The problem with selling radio spectrum is that it is very difficult to estimate what it will be worth in the future. The big networks made out like bandits on the current system. I say lease out stations, and re-auction the leases every ten years. The government (hence the taxpayer) will make out much better that way.

  • by Vortran ( 253538 ) <aol_is_satan@hotmail.com> on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:12AM (#258374) Homepage
    I am a HAM radio operator, and as such we enjoy the free usage of a portion of the spectrum do to our self-policing and stewardship of the airwaves we use.

    Yes, the FCC sold out some time ago, but what did they sell? How can anyone "own" the electro-magnetic spectrum? What's next, taxing gravity?

    Every time the FCC threatens to encroach on our air space, we flood them with mail and protests. Rest assured that there will always be people who can operate radio transmitters for personal purposes or the common good. They'll have to confiscate all the equipment from every HAM shack on the planet and lobotomize each and every one of us and keep us from getting our hands on any source of wire and electricity (with which can be made crude radio transmitters).

    As for digital.. heck ya, I love digital technology, but in an emergency when the computers and satellites are all down, I want a trusty CW rig so I can still communicate.

    KB9KEJ

  • Sadly, I have to agree. This is just one step [commondreams.org] towards the deregulation of 'Corporate America' out of many [commondreams.org]. In terms of radio and TV, it dates back to at least 1996, with the Telecommunications Act [loc.gov].
  • But now powerful commercial media are seeking to gain total control over the airwaves. Imagine a world in which a handful of global media conglomerates like Vivendi, Sony, BskyB, Disney, and News Corporation own literally all the airwaves all over the planet and trade them back and forth as `private electronic real estate'. A strategy is beginning to unfold in Washington DC to make that happen.

    At my intial thought I was someone excited, not thinking about the obvious... AM/FM filled with nothing but companies gloating over their products. Its bad enough in radio now an hours worth of time means 25 minutes of music, 5 minutes of rootarded deejays, 29 minutes of commercials, and sometimes a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

    Ironic is the name of the site and the corresponding issue "CommonDreams.org" posting about the FCC giving up control. *stops, thinks, laughs*

    Lets get realistic for a second here, gov is hard pressed to retain control of most things in the country, and when you think about this deeply you know it won't happen.

    Picture some mid west gun hippy cult crew spewing all day talk of guns, and "Big Brother cominuh git me" talk. Or other forms of media government has worked hard to surpress, imagine a non stop Cypherpunk channel where Bruce Shneier, and others called in to talk about the latest Elliptical Theories to protect data.

    Man politicians in DC would shit in their pants coming up with reversed/conspiracy theory factors to block this from happening.

    Didn't a company sort of do this with Real Player, set up a sort of 100 channel Real Player server where you could watch whatever, whenever? Just think about that for a second anyway, (because I remember watching Parse about 2-3 years ago) if it didn't work on the net where technology is cheaper than buying huge arrays of antennas to send out signals (then hoping your neighbors don't sue for fscking up their lives with it), getting permits for equipment, yadda yadda, I see it as a corporation only like benefit, not meant for the little guy.

    coming soon [antioffline.com]

  • Well, if it's an auction, SOMEONE's got to be the high bidder, right?

    You know those auctions where the police sell off cars and property seized from drug dealers? The ones where, if you're lucky, you might be able to pick up a car for pennies on the dollar? Auctions are not necessarily a great way to get the best price; really, auction pricing is entirely dependent on who else is participating, and what they're willing to pay. Not necessarily on what the property is worth.

    Now that's all well and good if we're talking about a few cars with bullet holes in them. But in this case, we're talking about granting permanent, inheritable rights to entire areas of spectrum. There's only so much useful spectrum, and as the population and technology increases, the value of that spectrum is going to increase beyond anything we can imagine. Not only are we creating the world's largest property speculator's market, we're also handing out property at a price guaranteed to be a tiny fraction of what the spectrum will be worth. There isn't a corporation in the world rich enough to pay what a few choice Mhz will be worth in thirty years, if technology continues at even a shadow of its current pace. Worst of all, this is property that we the people might want to use someday, that we won't be able to touch because Rupert Murdoch's grandson owns it.

    What also worries me is that with the sale of spectrum, we're creating an entirely new type of property out of whole cloth. Think about what it means to own airwaves. They're nothing tangible that you can point to and say "I own this." Essentially, when buying spectrum, you're making a contract with the government whereby only you can ever broadcast on those frequencies-- for the rest of human history (or as long as law and society as we know it holds together.) This means that the government will use our tax money to fund the FCC's policing of the airwaves, long after the money from these auctions is used up. It will certainly mean that the use of the airwaves is no longer based any assignment of need, and instead we'll probably see even more of the leasing we see today. Only, the people receiving the profits will be the lucky corporations who happened to exist and have adequate resources to get in on the biggest, most exclusive auction in history. If you're unlucky enough to be born after these transactions take place, or if you don't happen to own a multi-billion dollar corporation, you're really screwed. People will look back and wonder what sort of shortsighted government handed over control of all the broadcast frequencies in the United States to a bunch of random corporations back in the eary 21st century.

  • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @05:49AM (#258380)
    In the past, large corporations were given coal and mineral rights for literally a tiny fraction of what they were worth over the long haul. Governments made quite a few of these decisions based entirely on personal connections and lobbying, guaranteeing that taxpayers didn't even have a chance to get a fair shake.

    The truth is, nobody could realistically afford to purchase the airwaves today if the purchase price took into account the future revenues they will generate (even over a limited timespan, like 100 years.) The fact that these corporations think that they have a chance to buy the spectrum implies that they certainly aren't going to pay a fair price for it.

  • by Chakat ( 320875 ) on Sunday April 29, 2001 @06:44AM (#258385) Homepage
    ...please show me an example of a successful boycott of a large corporation.

    Okay. How about the Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. There was no government involvement (other than arresting protesters), and the idiotic policy of segregation was changed because it was hurting the bottom line.

  • On February 7, 37 leading US economists signed a joint letter asking the federal communications commission (FCC) to allow broadcasters to lease spectrum they currently license from the government in secondary markets. [...] The study argued that government control of the radio frequencies led to inefficiencies

    Of course it does: that's the whole point. Without government regulation, the market wouldn't tolerate those inefficiencies, and it would fail to deliver social and policy goals that we hold important as a society.

    Delivering trinkets at the lowest possible price is ultimately not what modern economics and social policy should be about. We have an abundance of resources (food, information, etc.), and we now have the luxury of looking beyond the old imperatives of scarcity and optimal efficiency. Yet, mainstream economists are still behaving as if we didn't have enough bread or bandwidth.

    My view of mainstream US economics is pretty dim. I don't view it as a science but as a morass of simplistic mathematical models, academic pressure, opportunism, corporate influence taking, lack of deep thinking, and political ambition. To be sure, there is some good, solid work in economics, some of it even recognized more widely, but it doesn't seem to be listened to by policy makers. Perhaps that is because it doesn't give any simple answers and instead forces policy makers to actually set their own goals that go beyond bigger SUVs and bigger burgers.

    The mechanism for stopping this kind of economic insanity is simple: politics. Unless there is scarcity in something as basic as food or housing, politics trumps economics. We can decide to use tax dollars to finance public television, we can decide to keep open radio frequencies for micropowered radio and amateur radio, we can decide to keep open spectrum for telecommunications technologies that may look like a long-shot in the market but seem promising 10-20 years down the road. So, go out and vote against politicians that think the whole world is to be measured in dollars and cents. And punch those cards all the way through next time.

  • Think about domains. By the time half of us got interested in buying a domain, all the obvious words or abbreveations/letter combonations where already taken by bigger companies (or just someone else). I think the same will occur here: someone will scoop up all the radio spectrum available before anyone else even has a chance to.
  • What would you do if you could buy a little slice of your local spectrum...

    Get a clear [slashdot.org] computer case, then mess with the airwaves [slashdot.org] real good.

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