Is open source communication possible?

Summary:Our own George Ou has a long item up today questioning whether WiMax can deliver its promises of true open source communication.He will get no argument from me.

Our own George Ou has a long item up today questioning whether WiMax can deliver its promises of true open source communication.

He will get no argument from me. It's very possible I've been laboring under great misapprehension, and that so have many WiFi advocates. If WiMax can't get frequencies cleared it can't fulfill its potential, that's for certain.

Which brings up an important point. The power of open source lies in the community's ability to freely use and share important resources, to drive creativity and economic growth. It certainly works that way in software.

Frequency regulation was originally designed to do the same thing. Early radio stations interfered with one another. So we had the 1927 Radio Act, creating a regime to prevent interference and enhance the growth of the medium.

Ever since then, we've mostly treated the frequency spectrum as proprietary, as property that could be given, or sold, by the government. There are people who regard any other regulatory regime as, frankly, Communist.

But is it? Is frequency naturally scarce, scarce enough that the government should own it or sell it? Science tells us it's not. Even now we're using huge swaths of the frequency spectrum that could not have been used before. Do you have a satellite dish on your house? Do you know it's receiving data in bands like 11 GHz, and higher? In fact we're now using frequency bands as high as 38 GHz, frequencies that were quite unusable before.

The open source idea of frequency is that it's like an ocean, not a set of railroad tracks, and it should be regulated based on the principle of non-interference, not on the principle of private ownership.

I would argue we have a lot more creativity, usage and economic growth going on in the unlicensed bands, like those used for WiFi, than in those the government has sold. And it's economic growth, not private property rights, that should be the goal of regulation.

Unfortunately we're moving here into the realm of politics, not science and not business. Whether our frequency regulation makes sense is up to our leaders, which means in a democracy it's ultimately up to you.

If George is right (and again, I'm not arguing with him) then WiMax's promise, and the promise of open source communication, is being hemmed-in by political and regulatory Cluelessness. Those countries that truly deregulate are going to get the economic jump on us.

The struggle for open source is, in this instance, a political struggle.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.