Frequency regulation anew

The Federal Communications Commission will decide today whether to require a license for using vacant airways âÄî which will be left open by the required switch to convert to fully digital signals by February 2009. The vacant airwaves, if opened, will serve as a new competitive market on the Internet for software companies. Broadcast companies incumbent to the airways, nevertheless, are lobbying the FCC to limit the space to their use only. The FCC should adapt an open-market policy and not require companies to obtain a license for using the spectrum. The new availability of the frequency has potential to bring cheap, high-speed Internet to rural communities that currently lack access almost entirely. These frequencies also have potential for tech companies to offer cheaper Internet to urban areas. But prospects for cheaper Internet access already look bleak. The FCC has already wrongly auctioned off rights to the most useful part of the frequency, dubbed âÄúBlock C,âÄù to Verizon for $4.74 billion. Unless tests prove that an unregulated frequency spectrum will create unbearable interference, the remaining vacant frequencies need to be left open for all companies. Currently, rural areas are forced to opt for expensive, high latency satellite access. Requiring a license for these frequencies will only slow the countryâÄôs advancement in offering lower costs and extended coverage areas in broadband Internet. With countries now competing to be the most wired on the globe, the United States is threatened, if not already behind its rivals like Japan. Letting the FCC get in the way of technological advancement is antithetic to a free market and will unacceptably delay national development on this promising frontier. Tech, phone and broadcast companies all need to have equal access to a frequency spectrum with such a high potential.