Spectrum Reform

What Media-Merger Crisis?

Federal regulators recently approved AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV and Verizon’s purchase of AOL and are currently deciding whether to permit the merger of two cable companies, Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Charter Communications. Inevitably, media mergers breed techno-panic in some quarters with a consistency matched only by the failure of their predicted disaster scenarios to materialize.

Sweeten the Deal: Transfer of Federal Spectrum through Overlay Licenses

A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that auctioning overlay licenses is an effective means of repurposing underused federal spectrum for consumer uses. Overlay licenses have been used to reassign nonfederal spectrum but never federal spectrum. The paper presents new evidence from a 2006 spectrum auction (AWS-1) that suggests billions of dollars of underused federal spectrum could be deployed more quickly than other policy alternatives. Crucially, overlay licenses allow agencies to receive payment for spectrum sales, and this reordering of spectrum rights would benefit taxpayers and wireless broadband users.

Letter to House Committee on Energy and Commerce Concerning Television Regulation

The focus of the committee’s white paper on how to “foster” various television distributors, while understandable, was nonetheless misguided. Such an inquiry will likely lead to harmful rules that favor some companies and programmers over others, based on political whims. Congress and the FCC should get out of “fostering” the video distribution markets completely. A light-touch regulatory approach will prevent the damaging effects of lobbying for privilege and will ensure the primacy of consumer choice.

Letter to House Committee on Energy and Commerce Concerning Federal Spectrum Policy

Former senior Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials Gerald Faulhaber and David Farber noted without irony that US spectrum policy resembles GOSPLAN, the Soviet planning agency that distributed scarce inputs to producers in every sector of the Soviet economy. The woeful inefficiencies and waste resulting from the current system of regulatory allocation are predictable, yet avoidable.

Getting Away from Gosplan

As in many countries, the U.S. government possesses a majority of the most valuable radio spectrum and pays virtually nothing for this natural resource. Audits by the Government Accountability Office and independent groups have made clear that federal spectrum is used ineffectively and that reforms are long overdue.

FCC Does Not Need to Play Favorites With Spectrum Auction

The Obama administration’s infamous struggle with the online insurance exchanges should serve as a lesson to regulators everywhere that complex systems cannot be rushed. In part because of the website fiasco, the Federal Communications Commission recently delayed the uniquely complex auction of spectrum—the medium through which our wireless transmissions pass—by one year. Despite this attempt to get it right, the FCC may still undermine the auction’s purposes by penalizing some wireless phone companies to favor others.

Putting More Spectrum on the Market

The "current system is similar to that of the former Soviet Union's GOSPLAN agency, which allocated scarce resources by administrative fiat among factories and other producers in the Soviet economy." So said scholars and Clinton-era Federal Communications Commission officials Gerald Faulhaber and David Farber about regulation of radio spectrum – the airwaves that provide us broadband and phone calls on our smartphones, send NFL games from satellites to our TVs, and connect our iPads via Wi-Fi to the Internet.

Reclaiming Federal Spectrum: Proposals and Recommendations

With the popularity of smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi, and other wireless devices that require as an input transmissions over radio spectrum, the rising demand for bandwidth is rapidly using up the available supply of spectrum. Spectrum demand increases significantly every year with no end in sight, yet the “greenfields” of available and unallocated spectrum are gone.

The Spectrum Crisis is Upon Us

Scholars and government auditors agree: Federal agencies use their spectrum poorly. Because agencies have no cost pressures and don’t economize spectrum use, President Obama directed regulators to find 500 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband by 2020. Economist Coleman Bazelon estimates that much spectrum would fetch nearly $100 billion at auction, and experts point to ancillary benefits of over $1 trillion if we can make more federal airwaves available for commercial use.

The Federal Communication Commission's Excellent Mobile Competition Adventure

    • Thomas Hazlett
Welcome to the Federal Communications Commission‘s 15th Annual Report and Analysis of Competitive Market Conditions With Respect to Mobile Wireless, released June 27, 2011. The FCC Report makes mistakes with the Commission‘s own data. It contains typos. It omits crucial, relevant, and available facts. It wastes page after page discussing tangential issues. This paper discusses the economic implications of the FCC's actions.