What the FCC can do for open spectrum

Regulation should conform to the trends of Moore's Law and maintain maximum competition in the market.

Larry Dignan is afraid the FCC may be doing too much, just looking at possibly anti-competitive deals, trying to stay on top of the news instead of sleeping in a corner, as it did for a decade before Julius Genachowski (right) came to town.

It's a mark of just how knee-jerk the opposition to government action in markets has become, that a mere investigation can lead reporters to fingering their worry beads.

To most people it's pretty obvious why Apple shut down Google Voice. VOIP is competition with cellular minutes, just as it was competition for wired phone minutes, which it destroyed.

I'm old enough to remember the monthly chore of auditing my phone bill each month, creating expense bills for various publishers, with the cost of each call written down and photocopied. I don't do that any more. The cost is rolled into my cellular plan as minutes which neither I nor my publisher has to see.

But running phone calls -- a low bandwidth service -- over the Internet rather than the wireless network is still a cost savings, which some customers would like to capture. Only the cell phone companies don't want them to.

This is just one of many ways in which companies have succeeded in frustrating Moore's Law over this decade. There is no technical reason why the price to move bits should not be going down, going down constantly, and going down rapidly. The cost of equipment, the efficiency of technology, it's all there to make it happen.

What isn't there are competitive markets with incentives for investment and no tolerance for monopoly.

Politics has squandered the advances of Moore's Law, and it will take more than the FCC's meager politics to bring them back.

So let me offer a simple guideline. Call it Dana's Law of Technology Regulation:

Regulation should conform to the trends of Moore's Law and maintain maximum competition in the market.

It will take real changes, not just investigations, to make that happen. We need more unlicensed channels, we need wholesaling in the last mile.

Bits may not be free, but they should be as cheap as the technology creating them allows. The goal should be encouraging the market to expand opportunity, and not making anyone's life easier.


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