The elephant in Blair Levin's spectrum lair

Cited Article

Levin, Blair, Spectrum Overhaul Long Overdue, The Hill, May 10, 2011

Article Quote

Blair Levin, primary author of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, says: “The question we should be debating is, what process should we use to reallocate spectrum to achieve our country’s purposes?  There are only four alternatives.”

My Comment

I disagree both that there are only four questions and that he has presented the most critical ones.  For me, there is hierarchy of questions, starting with: “Should we allocate spectrum according to the dictates of special interest politics or the public welfare?”

If the answer is special interest politics, then we should allocate spectrum to maximize the windfall to incumbents.  That seems to me like a pretty good summary of how we’ve allocated spectrum over the last 80 years.

If the answer is public welfare, then Levin’s questions are more relevant.   However, in any case, they are distinctly secondary to the more fundamental question of whether we should continue to allocate spectrum based on the preferences of the common weal or those of some of the wealthiest individuals and most profitable corporations in the world.

Arguably, no other natural resource owned by the American public is allocated more corruptly than spectrum.  Until our policymakers acknowledge that reality and make institutional reforms to correct it (see my “Art of Spectrum Lobbying” for suggestions), the high minded debate that Levin wants to hold will be irrelevant–a mere smokescreen–and the past corruption in spectrum allocation the best indicator of the future.

Why does Levin consistently ignore this ignoble past and likely future in his public musings?  I’ll leave that for you to figure out.  If you can, you’re well on your way to understanding why our spectrum policy is such a mess.

Recent Relevant Articles

Mark Miller, NAB’s Smith: Spectrum Crucial To Next-Gen, TVNewsCheck, May 10, 2011

John Eggerton, Smith: Forced Spectrum Move Could Destroy Innovation, Broadcasting & Cable, May 10, 2011

Harry Jessel, So Soon?  Next Gen Broadcast TV in the Works, TVNewsCheck, April 27, 2011

Deborah McAdams, Mobile DTV Group Lines Up Conditional-Access Technology, TVB, March 9, 2011


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