The FCC has designated a 50 MHz block of spectrum between 3650 and 3700 MHz as a "commons" for unlicensed use. Several parties have filed petitions for reconsideration in opposition to the designation.
This proceeding presents a real world case that can be used to analyze whether a "commons" allocation is any more efficient than traditional allocation by command-and-control.
The commons model that has been proposed in the legal literature is not an alternative to command-and-control regulation, but in fact shares many of the same inefficiencies of that system.
There is much confusion about the distinction between a "commons" regime-in which a resource is ultimately owned or controlled-and an "open access" regime-in which the resource is unowned and open to unrestricted use.
In order for a commons to be viable, someone must control the resource and set orderly sharing rules to govern its use. If the government is the controller of a commons-as proponents of a spectrum commons suggest it should be-then in allocating and managing the commons the government will very likely employ its existing inefficient processes. This is apparent in the 3650 MHz proceeding.
The FCC should revisit the 3650 MHz allocation and consider allowing at least some licensed uses, especially in densely populated metropolitan areas.
The FCC should revisit its decision to place a "commons" model on par with a property rights model as viable alternatives to command-and-control allocation.