Supercommons: Toward a Unified Theory of Wireless Communication

Kevin D. Werbach
2003 Social Science Research Network  
The federal government has long controlled the allocation and assignment of electromagnetic spectrum, considered the lifeblood of wireless communication. Critics of government spectrum licensing advance two alternatives: exclusive property rights and unlicensed sharing through "spectrum commons." Yet both sides fail to come to grips with an essential point: there is no such thing as spectrum. It is an intellectual construct whose utility is rapidly decreasing as technology develops. Because
more » ... trum is not a concrete thing, oft-used analogies to land or to natural resources break down. There is a vast new communications space emerging, whose full extent is unknown. Regulatory proposals based on spectrum as a physical asset denominated by frequencies artificially constrain mechanisms that exploit this "supercommons," producing inefficient outcomes. A better approach is to draw analogies to legal domains that do not presuppose ownership, such as tort. A universal communication privilege, allowing anyone to transmit anywhere, at any time, and in any way, should be the baseline rule for wireless communication. Liability backstops and safe harbor mechanisms can effectively prevent ruinous interference, while efficiently resolving boundary disputes.
doi:10.2139/ssrn.456020 fatcat:atvjqmoozbb5lpupj63lnb2ace