Free the Radio Spectrum

Antiquated regulations have made radio spectrum artificially scarce. Rethinking the way we manage the airwaves could open up vast amounts of bandwidth

5 min read

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government entity that manages the commercial and public radio spectrum in the United States, has proposed making 500 megahertz of spectrum available for broadband within the next 10 years of which 300 MHz between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz will likely be made available for mobile use within five years. The extra bandwidth, recaptured from broadcasters after the digital television transition, is certainly needed, given that AT&T reports that its mobile broadband traffic has increased 5000 percent over the last three years and that other carriers have also seen significant growth. However, under the current approach to allocating spectrum, this 500 MHz will do little to ease the looming spectrum crunch.

It’s time to rethink the way we allocate spectrum. Under current regulations, spectrum real estate is valuable but exclusive. In the past, that exclusivity was the only way to prevent multiple users from interfering with each other. But advances in radio technology means that today such exclusivity is no longer necessary; instead, it creates false scarcity. So we must change our decades-old approach to managing the public airwaves.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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