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The Political Spectrum ‘Public Interest’ Regulation vs. Wireless Competition and Free Speech

Wednesday March 2002


Thomas W. Hazlett Senior Fellow, Center for a Digital Economy at the Manhattan Institute

The fate of the U.S. economy is increasingly linked to the health of new communications networks, the most innovative and exciting of which are based in the wireless sector. Yet federal allocation of radio spectrum—celebrating its 75th birthday since being hatched in the Radio Act of 1927—locks up vast bandwidth, protects obsolete technologies, and blocks entrepreneurial applications seeking to gain access to airwaves. These constraints severely limit the ability of Americans to work efficiently, to speak freely, or to tune to the viewpoint of their choice. The ironic consequences of “public interest” regulation are now being challenged by Silicon Valley and other elements of the New Economy, constituencies that favor allowing market forces, rather than bureaucrats and special interests, to allocate the invisible resource.”