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Wireless Regulation for a Digital Economy: Dragging FCC Spectrum Policy Into the 21st Century

Thursday November 2003


Thomas W. Hazlett, Ph.D. Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute Chief Economist, Federal Communications Commission (1991-92)

Despite the fact that cell phone subscribers will soon outnumber traditional phone customers in the United States, the economic possibilities of wireless technologies have barely been scratched. One crucial reason is that the FCC has been extremely reluctant to release new spectrum to industry. In fact, American mobile phone operators only have access to just over one-half the bandwidth available to carriers in European Union countries.

Economists are in general agreement that competitors should be allowed to purchase and trade spectrum rights in unregulated markets. Nonetheless, some regulators at the FCC continue to resist creating markets for spectrum and cling to a central planning model.