Slate's Jack Shafer makes the basic case for abolishing the Federal Communications Commission and auctioning off property rights in the radio spectrum.
Did I come across this piece here? Well, either way it's a good read for anyone interested in the subject. Clark sketches out the nastier details about the history of spectrum allocation.
For example, tune in FM radio station 90.9, and you are receiving a signal sent through the air at 90.9 megahertz. Both AM and FM radio are at the low-frequency end of the spectrum chart. Police radios and broadcast television occupy the middle bands, going up to around 800 megahertz. (Each television station gets a bundle of frequencies -- 6 megahertz of bandwidth -- because its signal has to carry more information than a radio signal.)
Well, what do we do when people stray over other types of property lines? Seems like it would be easy to regulate this with private civil enforcement, perhaps supplemented by criminal penalties for some types of willful and aggravted spectrum trespasses.
The distribution of the radio frequency spectrum defies a physical ownership and is subject to the abuses of the commons.
The FCC doesn't just regulate the boundaries. It regulates the content. It shouldn't. We don't accept that sort of regulation with newspaper and we shouldn't with broadcast.
This isn't quite true. The FCC regulates that part of the spectrum that it allows broadcasters to use for free in exchange for serving the public. This may be a quaint and forgotten concept (that broadcast radio and tv get to use huge swaths of the broadcast spectrum for free in exchange for providing a public service) but that is the deal.
the fact remains that in exchange for the practically free use of the airwaves, the broadcast networks have agreed to provide programming that serves the public interest.
Land is zoned, is it not? Even in a 'privatized' model, the FCC still has its place.
Your casual dismissal of the responsibilities of those entities who use valuable spectrum practically for free makes my case.
With devastating consequences for the people who used to share those commons.
Of all the arguments against privatization, this is the least coherent one. If you privatize, there are no commons. Privatization is a solution to the tragedy of the commons, not a cause of it.