Congress is auctioning off wireless spectrum and my blogroll is silent. I’m astonished.
Where’s Tabarrok? Hazlett? Mandel? All of these guys have had pretty strong opinions on this kind of thing before.
Anayway, businessweek has some decent coverage. As does the NYT, from which I quote (ignoring the crap about the Payroll tax, which I believe is actually a secondary issue here):
The measure would be a rare instance of the government compensating private companies with the proceeds from an auction of public property — broadcast licenses — once given free.
The auctions, which are projected to raise more than $25 billion, would also further the Obama administration’s broadband expansion plans and create a nationwide communications network for emergency workers that would allow police, fire and other responders from different departments and jurisdictions to talk to each other directly.
Let’s not mess around. This is big. Real big. From Businesweek:
Back when TV broadcasters had power—that is, over members of Congress, and not in wattage at home—they had the best spectrum, in the frequency range that carries well and through walls. But television signals interfere with each other, and so the FCC has always had to guarantee gaps, adequate spaces between cities and signals to ensure that The Cosby Show in Washington was not compromised by Cheers on the same frequency in Baltimore. I am not dating myself with these references; I am dating the dominance of broadcast television. These gaps of unused spectrum, which get wider as population density thins and fewer stations broadcast, are called “white spaces.”
It’s these white spaces that are going up for auction. Get ready for a speed boost and innovation explosion.
Here’s the best metaphor I can think of.
Wireless broadband before: