20 July 2007

Selling Off the Family Spectrum Commons

Radio frequencies form a commons for each country. Mostly these have been enclosed through auctions selling them to the highest bidder. Whether that's a good idea is another matter, but assuming for a moment that you think it is, at the very least you'd try to get plenty of dosh for this precious resource.

Well, according to this fascinating, and extremely thorough, paper, that didn't happen in the US:

According to calculations presented in this paper, since 1993, the government has given to private interests as much as $480 billion in spectrum usage rights without public compensation. That comes to more than 90 percent of the value of spectrum usage rights it has assigned from 1993 through the present.

Now, admittedly "as much as $480 billion" includes zero, but I don't think that's the case here. We're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars that the US public won't be getting. Which means that there are some companies - and corporate fatcats - who are richer by the same amount.

So, how about if we start treating like a commons instead? That way, you can be sure that everyone gets their fair share - unlike the situation in America.

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