Spectrum long has been a key battleground for control, first of radio and today of our mobile phones. Former Federal Communications Commission chief economist Thomas Hazlett has just published a remarkable history of the U.S. government’s regulation of the airwaves: “The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone.”
Popular legend has it that before the Federal Radio Commission was established in 1927, the radio spectrum was in chaos, with broadcasting stations blasting powerful signals to drown out rivals. Hazlett debunks the idea that the U.S. government stepped in to impose necessary order. Instead, regulators blocked competition at the behest of incumbent interests and, for nearly a century, have suppressed innovation while quashing out-of-the-mainstream viewpoints. Over decades, reforms to liberate the radio spectrum have generated explosive progress, ushering in the “smartphone revolution,” ubiquitous social media, and the amazing wireless world now emerging. Still, the author argues, the battle is not even half won.
Professor Hazlett will expand on this thesis during a special book presentation. He will also address the present debate in the U.S. over net neutrality and how the history of the battle for U.S. spectrum influenced European decisions.
Thomas W. Hazlett is the Hugh H. Macaulay Endowed Professor of Economics in the John E. Walker Department of Economics at Clemson University where he also directs the Information Economy Project. Hazlett’s essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, and Time. He was a New Technology Policy Forum columnist for the Financial Times, 2002–2011. He is a founding partner of the consulting firm, Arlington Economics and serves as a Director of the Telecommunications Research Policy Conference. Born in Los Angeles, he graduated from UCLA.
Anthony Whelan is the Director of the Electronic Communications Networks & Services Directorate at the European Commission. A barrister, he has been a lecturer in public law at Trinity College Dublin. Before, he served as legal secretary in the chambers of an Advocate General at the European Court of Justice. He was Head of the Cabinet (private office) of EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes when she was commissioner for Competition, and later when she became commissioner for the Digital Agenda.