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Revolutionary Ideas for Radio Regulation 115

gummint writes "Radio is becoming more important to the Internet (Wi-Fi, etc.) and to software (software defined radios, under the right conditions, could be very important). Unlike the Internet and software, there's no excuse for not recognizing right away huge public policy issues. To foster broader and more informed public discussion of radio regulation, I've posted a preliminary discussion paper on my website, The abstract and outline are below. I hope that even persons without particular expertise in radio will take time to think about these issues and discuss them. Douglas Galbi, FCC Senior Economist."

Revolutionary Ideas for Radio Regulation

National and international broadband strategies should include radical changes in radio regulation. Radio technology is the key to rapid broadband development that reaches even geographically remote areas of the world. To get radical changes in radio regulation, a new world-wide conversation is needed around three questions.
  • First, what is a good separation and balance of powers in radio regulation?
  • Second, how should radio regulation be geographically configured?
  • Third, how should radio regulation understand and respect personal freedom?
Most persons understand revolutionary ideas that answer these three questions. The challenge is to recognize this common knowledge and apply it to radio regulation.

Check out an outline of the contents.
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Revolutionary Ideas for Radio Regulation

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  • by mike77 ( 519751 ) <mraley77 AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:18PM (#3703397)
    I hope that even persons without particular expertise in radio will take time to think about theseissues and discuss them.

    Hate to tell ya, but this is slashdot, we rarely even read the articles before we post on them! ;)

  • by march ( 215947 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:19PM (#3703407) Homepage
    I've been thinking about this for some time - it sounds like we need a world wide governing body for radio frequencies. Sort of like ICANN, but one that works. (Yeah right, that'll happen!)

    In fact, only understanding this partially, it seems to make sense to have standards that propose "trunking" or on the fly channel switching so we can utilize the bandwidth more evenly.
    • by Your_Mom ( 94238 ) <slashdot@inn[ ] ['ism' in gap]> on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:23PM (#3703436) Homepage
      Sorta like the ITU []?

      They don't do licenses like the FCC, but they are in charge of band planning IIRC.
    • On the other hand, interference isn't going to be as likely at a global level than with DNS, so regional instead of global control makes sense. Who cares what somebody on the other side of the globe uses as long as it does not interfere with you.
      • Who cares what somebody on the other side of the globe uses as long as it does not interfere with you.

        Well, there's this thing called travel, which usually involves the use of a motor vehicle, train, airplane, or ship of some sort, which often results in people ending up on the other side of the globe, and I'm sure many of them would like to be able to use their radio-based devices (think cell phones, wireless PDAs, and pagers for starters) wherever they are.

        Hey, whaddya know, global standards do have some positive consequences.

      • Depends. Bands above 144Mhz or so, you are probably right, 30 Mhz and below are world wide. In the middle of the two, you are most likely safe with regional or local authority, but they sometimes carry worldwide.
      • In some bands you're quite correct (namely, any band where you can't do much better than line-of-sight). However, there is a very real chance of interference in the shortwave bands (roughly 3-30 MHz). For instance, the 40 meter ham band in the US is interfered with by the 41 meter broadcast band in Europe anytime 40 is open between the two areas (they share the same set of frequencies, roughly 7100-7300 kHz). At some points in the propagation cycle this happens on a fairly regular basis, like nightly.

        In the global scheme of things broadcasters interfering with hams is no big deal (except of course to the hams involved), and hams interfering with broadcasters even less so. But, consider a maritime distress or aviation band in those same general frequency areas. There needs to be some sort of coordination to make sure, for instance, that a maritime distress channel in the Indian Ocean isn't dropped right into the middle of some high-traffic communications channel.
      • yeah but regional still means within country boundaries .... radio waves don't care - think about the city-pairs along the US-Mexico border where you can't just toss a cell tower up unless you known the freq is managed at a higher level - esp. on bands that have long propagation (for example the US band allocation is for some reason different from the rest of the world - as some people mentioned US hams step on other people broadcast SW bands - and vice versa) - countries do need to talk and that's in part why there's an ITU
    • Dang, can't load the PDF but looking at the table of contents seems like the article covers lots of good ground. One thing I wish I saw that I don't - tax away the "rental" value of the bandwidth. In conjunction with using the trunking mentioned above this would take away the profits garnered by controlling the resource. Left over would still be the opportunity to make good profits from corporations using the spectrum wisely. Now if only we could trust governments to use extra taxes gained to displace income taxes. *sigh*
  • where i work we have a bunch of wireless network equipment (not too secure either, but managmenet doesn't want to buy the equipment.) anyways, there are plenty of other access points, and only so many wireless channels, we use up around half of the channels to avoid interference from one access point to the other, however the neighboring buisness use plenty of channels themseleves, i've noticed we have a lot of interference on channels 6 and 11, i've also noticed that i can see over 20 access points on each on from (as far as i guess) 5 other establishments......
    • the reason why you see a lot of interference on 6 is its normally the default on wi-fi enabled devices, 11 because its one of the only other 2 non overlaping channels, i would suspect that you would probably have the same amoun on channel 1.
      • there are a lot less collisions now, mainly at 8 am and 11:30, first logon and net surfing over break! i'll work on some other stuff, but overall, it's been great! adios!
  • Radio Regulation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kb3hag ( 584560 ) <> on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:22PM (#3703422) Homepage
    First, Amature radio bands should be nationaly standardized, trying to talk to a pearson listioning on a frequancy they can't trans on that you can and the other way around is very tiring.

    Second, geographical regions with tought terain should be forced to use hf frequancies, 49.999 mhz and below because of it's propagation properties. And local governments should have a say in there frequancy usage, but there must be internatioanl templates for diffrent bands and usage.

    Third, radio regulation should be somthing people can vote on. people should be able to have a say in what they can and cannot do with radio bands. there should be an international radio regulation panel that regulates radio usage. atleast that's my thoughts and my 2 cents
    • First, Amature radio bands should be nationaly standardized, trying to talk to a pearson listioning on a frequancy they can't trans on that you can and the other way around is very tiring.

      There's complex reasons for this. The world is divided into three ITU regions each with varying allocations, but the majority of them match up quite well. Even so, when have you had a problem with this, other than perhaps on 40 meters ? (And I believe your license class is Tech, so you don't have voice privleges on 40m) Even then, it's not a big problem. Most foreigners will do split contacts in the band so you can operate voice in your band, and they operate voice in their band.

      Second, geographical regions with tought terain should be forced to use hf frequancies, 49.999 mhz and below because of it's propagation properties. And local governments should have a say in there frequancy usage, but there must be internatioanl templates for diffrent bands and usage.

      This is total nonsense. There are international "templates" and every country uses HF frequencies for Amateur, government, and private allocations.

      there should be an international radio regulation panel

      There is - it's called the ITU.

      How did this get modded to a four ? I'd mod it down, but I was a victim of the moderation blacklisting scam.

  • by tenman ( 247215 ) <slashdot,org&netsuai,com> on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:25PM (#3703451) Journal
    Douglas Galbi, I don't know who you are, but your not the FCC's Senior Economist, I am. That's MY title. This story is a fake, and I'll prove it...

    Don Corleone
    FCC Senior Economist
    Federal Communications Commission
    445 12th Street, SW
    Washington, DC 20554
    • Re:Douglas Galbi? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fantanicity ( 583135 )
      This page [] says

      Chief Economist, FCC
      Joseph Farrell

      Deputy Chief Economist, FCC
      Chief Economist, Common Carrier Bureau
      Gregory Rosston

      There are 6 Bureau Chief Economists

      Jim Coltharp
      Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

      Jerry Duvall
      Competition Division

      Doug Galbi
      International Bureau

      Dan Hodes
      Cables Services Bureau

      Tom Spavins
      Competition Division

      Doug Webbink
      Mass Media Bureau

    • Re:Douglas Galbi? (Score:1, Informative)

      by mlong ( 160620 )
      Douglas Galbi, I don't know who you are, but your not the FCC's Senior Economist, I am. That's MY title. This story is a fake, and I'll prove it...

      I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but that troll just got modded to 3.

      Perhaps everyone should look here: tml []

    • You may use the title of "senior" may be applied when your GS level or other experience is high enough... their are many creative titles here at the Commission...

      Senior Information Obfusticator, Senior Citizen, Senor Attorney...
      James Miller
      (You can find me in the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology's Spectrum Policy Branch... but my views are my own not those of the Commission..)
  • radio rights (Score:4, Insightful)

    by coronaride ( 222264 ) <> on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:29PM (#3703472)
    This is a very similar argument to all sorts of other issues. In America, it always seems to boil down to either the government regulating it, a private entity regulating it, or a private entity hired by the government to regulate it. Is this the result of our capitalist society? I honestly don't know.

    What we need is individual civic entities operating out of goodwill, not money, in order to establish rights and rules for all things, not just airwaves. Of course, no good American will do this, becaus it requires things like 'goodwill' and 'selflessness' and 'working without pay'.
    • Amateur radio makes heavy use of volunteer coordination. Hams do a lot of "working without pay", and are good Americans.

      It works, but what happens when there's a dispute?

      An elected regulator who is working for a paycheck is accountable -- the electorate can stop his or her paycheck if they don't like the results.

      Human activities are always regulated. Even anarchy is regulated by the bullies. Well constructed, transparent, accountable regulation enhances freedom. I can operate on the ham frequencies because the government will shut down a spammer who tries to take them over. I can drive because the government removes people and objects who block the freeway.
      • Re:radio rights (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rot26 ( 240034 )
        Amateur radio makes heavy use of volunteer coordination. Hams do a lot of "working without pay", and are good Americans.

        Yup. Unfortunately most hams are older, and aren't really being replaced by a younger generation (which has substituted the computer for a radio.) And even if there was a new generations of hams, I'm afraid they wouldn't be blessed with the altruistic spirit that kept amateur radio going all these years.

        I imagine there are more than a few companies right now who are greasing palms and smoking on the devil's johnson to make sure they get a piece of the billions of dollars worth of public airwaves which will be made available when the last ham signs off, and nobody else who gives a shit is left around.

        (--... ...__)

    • I modded this down because I take exception to the assertion that anyone who does not "work without pay" isn't a "Good American." I'm sorry, but there is far more to being a "Good American" than buying into the socialist Utopian ideal that everything can and should be given away. I guess I'm not "selfless" enough, nor do I have enough "goodwill" but neither of those put food on the table, pal.

      Mod me down if you like. I'm not using my +1 bonus because this isn't intended to further this absurdity of a discussion. But I did not post as AC, because I'm man enough to face those I find incorrect.
    • Re:radio rights (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dschuetz ( 10924 )
      In America, it always seems to boil down to either the government regulating it, a private entity regulating it, or a private entity hired by the government to regulate it.

      Actually, more often than not, it seems to boil down to "let's not let anyone regulate it, and let the consumers make their choice." And as a result, we have crappy airline service, super-expensive cable TV, balkanized cell phone service, and no AM stereo.

      This may be a bit of an off-topic, but there's a great article in the latest Consumer Reports that talks about how all kinds of industries (CATV, Long Distance, Airlines, etc.) were ALREADY on a downward cost trend (services going up, costs going down) before government deregulation, and that since deregulation, the trend has either slowed down or reversed (and quality / service gone down).

      Since "It'll be cheaper for the consumer!" seems to be the standard battlecry for people advocating deregulation, this was very interesting.

      Anyway, I do agree that we need better regulation of certain technological fields -- be it frequency allocation or technology standards (like selecting a single cell phone spec for everyone to use so we're not 20 years behind the Finns). For some reason, though, we as a culture seem to think that's verboten. That it's an affront to the capitalistic ideal. But, in the end, the capitalist system doesn't "select" what's "best" for the consumer, it selects who was "best" at competing.

      So, how do we make these decisions, then? I certainly don't want a bunch of bureaucrats deciding the specs for the next ethernet standard, do I? And I don't want industry to do it, either (at least I don't want the entertainment industry to do it). And it's difficult to get too many people together without someone crying "antitrust." Maybe a standardized process of academics and industry proposing and peer reviewing, with government oversight and approval? I dunno.

      Either way, it sucks. There's no technical reason (as I've said over and over) why we can't all have fiber to our doorstep with a unified, standard data and hardware spec that enables me to switch, for example, from one CATV provider to another with a simple phone call.

      And it's not getting any better, as the different specs for XM and Sirius prove -- I'd be less reluctant to buy into satellite radio if I could switch to the other provider if I don't like their programming.

      Okay, I'm done with the tangent.
      • so you're saying that the government doesn't regulate tv? *coughFCCcough* or the airlines? *coughFAAcough*
        • so you're saying that the government doesn't regulate tv? *coughFCCcough* or the airlines? *coughFAAcough*

          Right. How many networks are there, really? How many of them own the entire production chain (from actors on up to stations)? The FCC has been relaxing all the ownership rules for years, so that networks own more TV stations outright, produce more of their own shows, etc. Very little real competition going on there, and so the quality sucks.

          But I wasn't talking, originally, about broadcast TV, but about Cable TV. Yes, there is still some regulation for broadcast TV (like some frequency allocation), but that's about it.

          Airlines? Please. No regulation at all. The FAA makes sure that some basic safety standards are met, but any airline can oversell a plane, leave 3 hours late, and not even give you peanuts. The fact is, "unrestricted" fares (the really expensive ones that you can cancel whenever you need to) used to be the only fares you could get, before deregulation, and they weren't any more expensive (adjusted for inflation) than today's "discount" fares, where the consumer has no rights whatsoever.

      • But, in the end, the capitalist system doesn't "select" what's "best" for the consumer, it selects who was "best" at competing

        No it selects whats best for profits and shareholders. I agree that i dont want a bureaucrat deciding on standards, just like i dont want my mechanic to give me an apendectomy (Sp?). I agree that we should all have fiber, but there is one important reason why thats never going to happen, if they can charge $50 a month for service that is currently out there(DSL, Cable, etc), why should they invest in new equipment/r&d and spend all that money just so they can charge you $50 a month for fiber. Corporations settle on different standards for reasons (licensing, trying to cut out the competition, etc..) for reasons normaly financialy related, and in a capitolist society things will never change, personaly i dont mind at all, thats what makes the US great.

        • So, corporations settle on standards based, not on what would provide the consumer with the best product or service, but what will provide the corporate officers and shareholders with the most loot. This is what makes America great? Now, I'll grant you, such attitudes and patterns of action have shaped American society greatly, but I would hardly consider that part of American/Western culture to be "great" in the sense of being excellent.
    • Actually, its just hard to work without pay. There's a real chicken and egg problem where if only one person starts to become more selfish, all the rest have to also become more selfish in order to "keep up". Similary, if one person tries to sacrifice for the greater good, that will only have lasting results if everyone else respects that sacrifice and does not exploit it. This is why businesses should not be considered persons, and why only a spiritual solution to economic problems will work in the long run. Check out The Prosperity of Humankind [] for some very insightful comments on this.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We can use this regulation to regulate the bands that play on the air.

    Britney may be nice to look at but her music needs to be regulated. The same goes for boy bands (you know who you are!)

    We could also regulate talk radio (Imagine the possiblities--you could declare a "Rush Free Zone" against Limbaugh)
  • by Saint Aardvark ( 159009 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:33PM (#3703504) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot as a way for (some subset of) government to test the waters, of proposing something to (some subset of) the public, and a way for a civil servant to exert some influence on his employer.

    Remember, CmdrTaco, use this power for good, not evil. The Trade Federation is in thrall to the Dark Side, and cannot be trusted. JarJar is your friend...

    Um, sorry everyone...too much cough medicine.

    (Still think this is neat, though.)

  • FCC pays attention (Score:1, Insightful)

    by octalgirl ( 580949 )
    This is a pretty indepth report. A lot to go over, and many references. With all of the crap with RIAA, CARP, DMCA, CIPA, etc, I am at least glad that a member of the FCC realizes the communication potential of the internet and all that it has brought to us, and is making an effort to communicate processes or ideas via this site.
  • by Helmholtz Coil ( 581131 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @03:39PM (#3703537) Journal
    And here I thought it was only the FBI/CIA/NSA that found it interesting...
  • by PMadavi ( 583271 )
    Frankly, having worked for independant radio stations, I fear that the transmition of personal information via radio broadband will simply not be safe from the prying ears of big brothers. But that's just cause I really HATE the FCC
  • by smoondog ( 85133 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @04:01PM (#3703657)
    I couldn't care less about most wireless communications nor could I care about Ham radio operators. I do care, however, very strongly about regulation of the Internet and the views of the FCC on it. IMO, The FCC would love to get its fingers into that pie.

    But I shudder at even a suggestion that the internet needs to be regulated, for it shares none of the common issues usually brought up in radio communication.

    But he does indirectly identify that the thought has crossed minds when he measures the reaction (pg 69):

    Nonetheless, government licensing of Internet users would be abhorred as a violation of God-given inalienable rights

    But later, he brings up the scarce resources argument, just the thing regulators like to hear (pg 70):

    The large volume of unsolicited email ("spam") distributed on the Internet essentially creates noise in Internet users' mailboxes and causes inefficient use of personal attention, a scarce resource. [Later he points out that most wouldn't like gov't removal of such noise]

    If the FCC is truely considering the notion of internet regulation, we need to nip that in the bud here and now. He is correct that most of us, IMO, would be p*ssed.

    As much as they might *want* to be in the internet space, the FCC needs to reflect on its opinion that regulation is even a public policy issue. Because it is not a scarce resource nor is it any of thier business. By even debating this issue, I worry that we might somehow legitimize the suggestion.

    • Speaking as one who uses wireless, and is a ham (KG6LGI)...

      The main problem with this paper, IMO, is that it proposes that regulators should care at all about the content of the message, and not just the context. That is, that it should matter at all whether someone's broadcasting political messages, art produced independent of any major corporate or government resources, public domain (and uncopyrightable) technical information that might change how people use certain products, or just simple personal messages (say, chatting with one's family or loved ones) broadcasted over free airspace because the for-pay communications providers went out of service or were just too expensive. (Of course, from the viewpoint of certain businesses - i.e., that rich people have a natural right to make more money by any means they desire - allowing just anyone to communicate, or even just anyone who can get a ham radio license - which is easy and cheap if you have even as much brains as a typical /. troll - is as severe a violation of your rights as, say, arresting you for murder just because you're black, even if you're not actually black but some photo of you came out discolored so some functionary thought it looked black and put out a warrant.)

      Currently, regulation of the airwaves is limited to technical matters because those who set up the system knew that regulation would be abused to regulate content improperly, and they wished to limit said abuse. Unlimited communication will produce more crap, but also more gems: that old "90% of everything is crap" applies to the sheer volume, and history shows that regulation more often than not cuts out both crap and the quality content, even if it was intended only to limit the crap. (Which means it may be defensible when the mere existence of the worst crap is detrimental - which almost never happens in reality, because people can just ignore said worst crap, thus it does no harm merely by existing. Unless you're one of the monied elite, who believes that the mere existence of this crap makes you lose face, a belief that is usually incorrect but is widespread nonetheless.)

      That most people don't care about the technical matters that regulation is restricted to, and just want to talk, is a good thing. But he makes this into the "problem" that he proposes to solve. The freest government is no government, i.e. anarchy - and in this specific case of the content of radio communications, as opposed to making sure the communications do not interfere with each other, anarchy actually works.

      All that said, it's impressive that anyone that high up in the government would actually bounce something off the public like this (or even have a /. account, for that matter). Even though I heavily disagree with what he has to say, I would like to applaud Mr. Galbi for saying it in this forum.
  • #include <rant.h>

    When I hear someone from the FCC talk about regulation for broadband radio, for some reason I think that means he intends on making broadband radio as stale and generic as commercial FM radio, probably have it all owned by 3 companies, make broadcast licensing too expensive, and keep it all flooded in paperwork. Thus taking away any sort of local community flavour (and local ownership) in broadcasting so all transmissions governed by the FCC can reflect the views, music, and adverts of "Generican Culture".

    ObKindaSaysItAll: the "Personal Freedoms and Licensing" link is b0rken.

    Of course, I've got an agenda and have known people who've had their radio equipment pilfered by the FCC[0], so I'm not a real fan of theirs. Funny how a non-elected part of the US gov't has so much power.

    [0] A pirate station. Sure, it wasn't legal, but it was pretty low power and didn't step on anyone's freq or say "fsck" on the air.
  • Maybe it is just time for radio stations / radios to adapt to instead of using a set frequency, to use spread spectrum to broadcast/receive signals. This would get away from the fights over who 'owns' a frequency.
  • One thing I found suprising after skimming the article was the difference between the amount of commerical operators licensed and the amount of amateur radio operators licensed. There's more of us then there are of them.

    Being a ham - this was interesting to me when you consider the slivers of bandwidth we are fighting to keep right now.

    When I first saw this [] I was very suprised - ham radio is just a sliver in the ocean of spectrum.

    Personally I think its pretty well managed - the FCC is very responsive to needs of people (you can call them up and often talk to a real human in seconds). I don't like the fact that the head of the FCC (currently the son of Colin Powell) is appointed by the bush administration - I think there's definately a conflict of interest between the head of the FCC and the presidents men and the powers of the FCC.
  • 1. No analysis given for unlimited unadministered radio bands. Usually, the ones who devises the most effective use of band over the din of the rice crispies (noises) wins. Pure Darwinism.

    2. Historically, as more users crowds the bandwidth, the less oversights occurs. USA bandwidth was easily monitored by its FRC (now FCC) back in the 1930s. Now it is just a fraction of 1%. Conclusion: Wild-west redux.

    3. In light of increasingly wild-west bandwidth usages, licenses infrastructure will be minimized by the use of spread-spectrum variations of its needed frequency/strength capabilities.

    4. Government regulations has historically stifles market growth, even toward mobile phones. Mobile R&D has managed to squeeze tremendous amount of capacity out of existing bandwidth.

    5. Recent regulations are heavily influenced by heavy-capitalized company.


    1. Throw out the AM/FM/SSB and roll in Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) or even Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) for any frequency spectrum with little or no power limitation.

    2. Zero governmental regulation is ulimately desired. Wireless Market force will surely explode in usage, robustness and functionality.

    3. No regulation, means no one getting fat by corporate peddling for favorable and often unsavorable regulations.

    4. Mankind now has the technology and the means to convert the spectrum into an all digital "Ethernet-like" smart usage, noise-compensating, radio waves.

    Let it go.
  • The two things that come to mind when reading comments here are: who owns the electro-magnetic spectrum? and When and where is DSSS a good thing?

    First, I submit that no one owns the electro-magnetic spectrum any more than someone owns gravity. Therefore, no one - including the FCC or some company or some radio station - should be allowed to profit from it or buy it up for the highest price.

    Secondly, I see a lot of posters advocating the use of spread spectrum technology as a replacement for fixed carrier AM/FM/SSB, etc. Sure, I think spread spectrum is cool. Don't we all? The problem is: I can't build DSSS circuits! I can build simple circuits that work on fixed carrier modulation with designs and parts I know how to use. Designing and building DSSS cicuitry requires equipment and knowledge that are beyond my resources and, I suspect, the resources of most HAM operators and electronic hobbiests.

    Do I think we should split bands into 3 wide-band FM channels each? No, but I do think that the public should be provided free use of spectrum throughout all bands and that there should be provisions in each band for many different types of users. Lastly, licensed channels in each band should be licensed according to the merits and public benefit of intended use, and the quality of the technology to be used - not according to who has the deepest pockets. The licenses should be virtually free.

    Vortran out
  • by davecl ( 233127 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @05:30PM (#3704112)
    One set of users of radio spectrum who should not be ignored are radio astronomers - in fact it could be argued that they helped to establish global radio communications in the first place, so should get some credit!

    Radio astronomy is now restricted to a few small regions of radio spectrum. Many interesting scientific targets cannot be observed because of man made interference (eg. HI emission lines in moderately redshifted galaxies). Even the small scientific reserves that exist are being encroached upon - for example by the Glonas satellites - and are under threat of commercial exploitation.

    One thing that a review of radio frequency use should do is to formalise and strengthen the protections of parts of the spectrum for scientific use.
    • Don't forget the OH line around 1620 MHz that got screwed by the Iridium satellites. Iridium played nice and stayed within their allocated band, but some harmonics of their frequencies landed right on top of the OH line. In my opinion it was sloppy engineering on their part. They have made it impossible to study OH masers and the like for the past few years.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday June 14, 2002 @05:56PM (#3704265) Homepage
    If you actually read through that long, turgid paper, it turns out to be an argument for privatizing the RF spectrum. The proposal is to have tradeable "spectrum real estate", with the use of a given band in a given geographical area to be a permanent, saleable property right.

    The main argument for this is that Guatemala is doing it. Really.

    • Thank you for being the first commenter who seems to have actually read the paper! I did too, or more precisely skimmed it looking for him to "cut to the chase". He really didn't -- at the beginning, he cited Guatemala's example, and then he rambled on with a PhD-thesis-length collection of stories about radio regulation. Sometimes seeming a bit drunk in the process.

      Guatemala's sale of spectrum rights as a kind of real estate is weird, of course, but then Guatemala's version of democracy is little removed from the Spanish Inqisition Empire that spawned it, a few wealthy families almost literally owning everyone else, with the European minority having the nearly untrammeled right to kill the indigenous majority. So sure, the airwaves should be "owned" by the Spaniards, like the land. Hardly an example for the USA.

      But then Galbi contradicts this when he talks about software-defined radios. His absynthe kicks in when he complains that FCC regs for SDRs prohibit users from reprogramming them. The whole idea behind SDRs is to allow one set of hardware to run code that adapts to one or another set of rules, each designed to prevent interference. Homegrown unapproved code as Galbi seems to like it would allow anybody to cause any old interference they wanted. He views this as creativity. Sorry, officer, if your police radio broke. Sorry, neighbor, if your cellphone broke. Software "freedom" trumps your rights, according to Galbi.

      Contradictions like that are about all I can glean out of an awfully-long read. This is not the first silly paper Galbi has written. He seems terribly hung up on the right wing ideology-du-jour as applied to communications practice. His research is actually pretty good; he just doesn't know how to synthesize cogent, or sane, conclusions.
  • So now we hear from another economist about how the spectrum should be managed. Obviously he's the expert since the FCC has, in recent years, taken to selling spectrum for the government.

    To hell with technical issues. To hell with getting the most use and re-use of spectrum. And just don't you worry about coordination with neighboring countries to provide rapid assignment of spectrum resources.

    Nope, all of that seems to mean squat to the FCC. They are in it for the money. Auction it all off, that's what they say. Spectrum to the highest bidder, no matter what the bidder wants to do with it or how badly he wants to abuse the spectrum he gets.

    There is no doubt in my mind that they are in it for the money. The odd thing about it is that the money goes into the general fund and the FCC's budget doesn't increase based upon how much revenue they bring in. So they still can't afford to do a decent job of enforcement with the silly rules they spew out.

    Whatever. As long as they are raking in bucks to put against the public debt I guess.

  • Ayn Rand propesed an alternative to federal regulation of the airwaves in (IIRC) Capitalism: The Unknown Idea: radio frequency "homesteading." The basic idea was to let anyone broaedcast anything on any unassigned frequency. The idea was that popular programming would live and thrive on their frequency whereas less popular comptetitors would wither away and die. After a certain amount of time (5 or 10 years), those who had successfully "homesteaded" that frequence would get a recognized "right" to continue using it. An interesting idea, and not all that different from what pirate radio stations are doing today, sans official recognition...

  • Before thinking too hard about regulations for the longer term it would make more sense to open up some space for experimentation with what kind of services radio might help deliver in an era of ubiguitous computing, ubiquitous digital storage and ubiquitous wired bandwidth.

    Personally, I only use radio in car and in bed, but even there I would like to get a lot more value from my listening time.

    Ideally almost all radio broadcasts would be mediated and buffered using my local storage and preferences, with a simple enough control to be used while driving (and in bed) enabling me to skip/kill items or request more depth/options.

    Once in a while I'd like the ability to fine tune my preferences from a browser, especially the integration of my personal music collection with broadcast material.

    And I'd be more than happy if localised advertising paid for the costs, both at home as a smarter substitute for junk mail and in transit as a smarter substitute for billboards.

    Unfortunately, I suspect, that the kind of people likely to buy up property rights to the radio spectrum are unlikely to ever have the wit to risk that level of potential destabilisation to their tired business models.
  • "Note: Unfortunately, it seems that Starpower, my internet service provider, is having difficult serving pdf files to some users. I suggest that you click the right button on your mouse when pointing to a link below, select "Save Target As" or "Save Link As", save the file to your disk, and then open the file up from your disk for viewing or printing. I regret the inconvience to you!"

    Yes, it's the ISP's fault your browser doesn't correctly handle MIME types. From what I see, it's one of two things:

    People running IE
    A poorly designed website

    I'd put my money on either of those.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?