POLITICO Technology Reporter Margaret McGill (left) is joined by Paula Boyd,
Senior Director of Government Affairs and Policy, Microsoft (second from left) Harold Feld, Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge (third from left) Tom Hazlett, Hugh H. Macaulay Endowed Professor of Economics, Clemson University; former Chief Economist, Federal Communications Commission; author, "The Political Spectrum"
(second from right and David Strickland, Partner, Venable LLP; former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (right) during the POLITICO panel discussion "Spectrum, Innovation and Infrastructure in the Trump Era" at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, DC, Thursday, June 15, 2017. (Photo by Rod Lamkey Jr.)

Thomas Hazlett participated in a debate held by POLITICO in Washington DC

Spectrum, Innovation and Infrastructure in the Trump Era – Thursday June 15, 2017   Watch the Video Facebook: POLITICO Live’s Facebook Page has More »

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Regulatory expert Robert Crandall spoke at Clemson Oct. 31

Rick Uhlmann, College of Business October 21, 2016 Deregulation would unleash efficiencies and enhance U.S. spending and productivity growth, according More »

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A Century of Spectrum Overregulation and the Quest to Liberate Wireless Technologies

via Hudson Institute With the FCC’s relentless drive to regulate new technologies, a look back at the history of the More »

FCC and the Internet: In Search of Bandwidth

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Regulators are trying to create a more flexible, competitive model for allocation of bandwidth for mobile data.
July 8, 2017 12:34 a.m. ET

The Radio Act of 1927, the brainchild of then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert C. Hoover, created a regulatory regime for carefully parceling out airwaves according to a “public interest” standard. It was said to be necessary to prevent chaos—“etheric bedlam.”

In fact, it was not. Rather, it reflected Washington politics that favored incumbent interests—the first few visionaries who opened radio stations and enjoyed commercial…

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Huffington Post review of “The Political Spectrum.”

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William Echikson, Contributor

Political Spectrum

07/04/2017 08:40 am ET Updated Jul 04, 2017

Few issues could seem more dry and technical than how to divide up radio spectrum, the electromagnetic waves through which radio, television and telecommunication signals pass. But that impression would be mistaken. As we learn from Thomas Hazlett, former chief economist with the US Federal Communications Commission, few issues could be more politicised or disputed.

Hazlett’s new book, The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone, tells a thrilling, roller-coaster tale of how US regulators often blocked progress at the behest of incumbents, delaying the implementation of FM radio and cable television. Hazlett also explains how recent reforms helped liberate the radio spectrum and generate explosive progress, ushering in the ‘smartphone revolution’, ubiquitous social media and the amazing wireless world.

The author recently visited Brussels and gave a talk at CEPS. Although his focus was on the US experience, his history is relevant today in Europe. The European Parliament is considering a new EU telco proposal that takes an important crack at reform. It lengthens the length of licenses to 25 years, which it hopes will be long enough to allow licensees to recoup investments in expensive new 5G connections.

But the EU reform is timid in encouraging continental-wide coordination on spectrum policy. By leaving national governments in control, Hazlett says Europe might fail to encourage telcos to invest in networks and end up behind the US in the race to install fast-speed mobile internet connections.

Spectrum policy always has been tricky. For more than a century, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have grappled with how to manage this valuable resource. Should they give it away? In his book (and his talk at CEPS), Hazlett detailed how, in the 1920s, the US Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover instituted a ‘priority in use’ policy, which allowed the first one who used the spectrum to keep it, free of charge.

Unfortunately, this created a series of vested interest holders. When a brilliant engineer, Edward Howard Armstrong, invented a new high-quality radio service called FM, existing AM license holders squashed it, keeping it off the market for two long decades. Later, the incumbent radio broadcasters slowed deployment of satellite radio. Meanwhile, incumbent television broadcasters blocked cable television and demanded giant sums to give up their broadcast frequencies, even as almost all of their viewers received their shows via cable or satellite. Hazlett, never one to mince words, describes the incumbent broadcasters – at least in the eyes of frustrated regulators – as “Dr Evil”.

In Europe, broadcasters have demanded giant sums to relinquish control of their spectrum. Another problem is government greed. In the first part of this century, Europe’s governments auctioned off spectrum, attracting huge prices that ended up starving investment.

Today, we seem to be learning from our historic errors. The US has managed to set up auctions that have freed spectrum at manageable (if still high) prices. During his talk in Brussels, Professor Hazlett celebrated the iphone’s tenth birthday. Without access to freed-up spectrum, he notes that Steve Job’s invention would not have had the opportunity to flourish.

How best then should we proceed? Hazlett proposes grandfathering existing licenses – allowing the broadcasters to keep their spectrum, while setting up new rules for future cases. Instead of specific spectrum auctions, case by case, he prefers that governments auction cheap new overlay rights which would give new entrants immediate access to vacant channels and to negotiate for the re-use of frequencies already in play.

Digital technology allows us to send much more data through a piece of spectrum today than it did in the past. Newcomers could take little bits of unused spectrum from existing licensees, particularly existing public sector licensees. Hazlett calls these “overlay rights” and describes them as “hunting licensees”.

It’s a fascinating proposal that Europe should consider. At the meeting at CEPS in Brussels last week, both European Commission spectrum chief Anthony Whelan and the chief mobile phone expert on spectrum Daniel Gueorguiev were present. I hope they were listening and can work together to free up the precious resource of our airwaves. Much of Europe’s technological future depends on their success.

Thank Goodness Apple’s iPhone Violated ‘Net Neutrality’ in 2007

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By Thomas Hazlett
June 29, 2017

Ten years ago this week the Apple iPhone, described by Steve Jobs as a “revolutionary product” that “changes everything,” went on sale for the first time. A million flew off the shelves in just ten weeks and a decade later—with more than a billion sold worldwide—the iPhone has transformed the way we live, work and do business.

But even as the fanboys and girls were camping out to be at the front of the line, harsh critics queued. Columbia law professor Tim Wu denounced the iPhone as “anticompetitive.” Nested exclusively with AT&T and lurking in a “walled garden,” the iPhone rollout violated “network neutrality,” a term coined by Mr. Wu to describe his preferred platform for fixed and wireless communications.

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