Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bad Science and the FCC

I like to try to keep up with the frontiers of "the next big thing". You know the myth that the people own the airwaves and the FCC just regulates it for us, by fining certain broadcasters for violating indecency rules, so "the children" won't see body parts and hear bad language? David Reed explains why all that is unnecessary, and it appears that we don't need an FCC afterall.

Internet architect David Reed explains how bad science created the broadcast industry.

By David Weinberger
March 12, 2003

There's a reason our television sets so outgun us, spraying us with trillions of bits while we respond only with the laughable trickles from our remotes. To enable signals to get through intact, the government has to divide the spectrum of frequencies into bands, which it then licenses to particular broadcasters. NBC has a license and you don't.

Thus, NBC gets to bathe you in "Friends," followed by a very special "Scrubs," and you get to sit passively on your couch. It's an asymmetric bargain that dominates our cultural, economic and political lives -- only the rich and famous can deliver their messages -- and it's all based on the fact that radio waves in their untamed habitat interfere with one another.

Except they don't.

"Interference is a metaphor that paints an old limitation of technology as a fact of nature." So says David P. Reed, electrical engineer, computer scientist, and one of the architects of the Internet. If he's right, then spectrum isn't a resource to be divvied up like gold or parceled out like land. It's not even a set of pipes with their capacity limited by how wide they are or an aerial highway with white lines to maintain order... read more.

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