Commercialization of the airwaves

Privatization of the radio spectrum
Public auction of the radio frequencies
The USA, like almost all countries, licences parts of the radio spectrum for domestic use, and it reserved chunks for television, satellites, cellular telephones, digital radio and the like. Since the 1950s, broadcasters have been able to trade licences, thus establishing that licences are valuable property. The Commerce Department had blocked the release of 200 megahertz of bandwidth, estimated to be worth $10 billion in 1991. It was planning to either give away rights to bandwidths, by assignment on the basis of deservingness or lottery, or to auction licences to the highest bidder.
1. Private ownership of airwave bands prevents deserving newcomers offering new services in the future. By selling off the airwaves the government is prevented from fulfilling its primary duty, of ensuring that the airwaves are reserved for the uses that are in the public interest.

2. Governments are supposed to protect the public interest by ensuring that local broadcasters are not ousted by national ones, and by seeing that broadcasting services remain diverse and universally available. Otherwise a monopolist could by all the spectrum for his own self-aggrandisement.

1. The airwaves are free for all users. The government cannot sell what is does not own.

3. If the government wants to stop ham radio operators being driven off the air, then let it reserve a small band for radio hams, or any other deserving broadcaster. Planning (zoning) laws work for land; why not airwaves ? Anti-trust and planning laws could quash monopolies even after licences had been sold, and public-service duties of broadcasters could be written into the licences, just as covenants are placed on property transactions.

3. Auctioning licences would not prevent new services getting on to the air. Quite the reverse. If, say, a computer company wants to make a wireless computer that would need no telephone line to talk to others; it will need a part of the spectrum. Let it buy it rather than wait to be allocated it. Perhaps it could get by with only part of a band: good, let it sell the rest. A market in airwave-space will encourage users to be sparing in their use of the spectrum by compressing their signals as much as technology allows.

(E) Emanations of other problems