November 13, 2013
Since the Radio Act of 1927, U.S. radio spectrum use has been determined by regulators. Historically, rigidities and inefficiencies of this allocation system have stifled both emerging technologies and market rivalry. Recent decades have witnessed the liberalization of some bands, however, notably those that govern cellular frequencies. Competitive market forces there determine how spectrum is utilized, triggering disruptive innovations including the "smartphone revolution" and today's "mobile data tsunami." This success has sparked popular interest in further spectrum allocation reforms. Existing regulatory structures and vested interests, however, block further progress. Battles in the Political Spectrum continue to rage.
Thomas W. Hazlett is Professor of Law and Economics at George Mason University, where he also serves as Director of the Information Economy Project. He has written for many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Slate, the New York Times, and the Financial Times; and his research has appeared in many law reviews and economics journals. He has provided expert testimony to federal and state courts, regulatory agencies, committees of Congress, foreign governments, and international organizations. He has previously held faculty appointments at the University of California (Davis), Columbia University, and the Wharton School, and served as Chief Economist of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).