The illusion of spectrum scarcity
In March last year, David Weinberger wrote a memorable article in Salon highlighting David Reed’s seminal insight that the ‘spectrum scarcity’ which has led to so much government regulation of communications is actually an illusion. Or, more precisely, it is an artefact of the limitations of old analog comms technologies. Analog signals did interfere with one another, and so had to be spread out over the spectrum — which was therefore finite, given the transmission and reception technologies of the day.
But that was then and this is now (to coin a phrase). With smart digital technologies we can now fit a virtually infinite amount of stuff into the electromagnetic spectrum. But we’re still stuck with the mindset which says spectrum is finite. The truth is that we’re no longer running out of spectrum, any more than we are running out of the colour blue. Here’s a lovely exposition of this idea by Gregory Staple & Kevin Werbach.
What this means is that an entire regulatory infrastructure — the FCC in the US, the DTI in the UK, etc. — is actually obsolete because the assumptions on which it is based are becoming obsolescent. Will things change? Hmmm… we’ll see.