Long-range versus Short-range Spectrum Licensing

by on September 7, 2006 · 40 comments

I’m pleased to see that Tim Wu took the time to respond (here and here, scroll down to the bottom of the comments) to my recent posts on his paper on Hayek and intellectual property. Here’s what he had to say on the spectrum issue:

The point made by Tim Lee is decent. It is certainly true that the FCC would have to state some kind of standard to make possible permissionless entry into the spectrum market (as it does for the garage band used by 802.11b). In addition, private actors could, if they wanted, similarly allow permissionless use of spectrum. The question is why they would want to.

In general I cannot understand the strength of Jerry’s and others’ objection to the substance of rules that would create permissionless market entry into the spectrum market. In my view, reflected in that paper, permissionless market entry is one of the holy grails of an effective market system.

Perhaps Jerry will jump in with his thoughts, but I think it’s crucial here to distinguish between short-range and long-range spectrum. For short-range transmission, Wu’s argument has a lot of merit because short-range wireless applications are nearly non-rivalrous. Cordless phones and WiFi seem to work quite well in an unlicensed environment.

A big part of the reason for this is that there are only a handful of people who want to transmit short-range signals in any given geographical location. There are only half a dozen WiFi networks within range of my apartment, and I live in a dense urban environment. Because I’m only competing with a handful of people, informal sharing mechanisms work pretty well. In this case, the WiFi protocol can operate on several different “channels,” and access points self-organize by selecting a channel where their signal won’t interfere with others (at least that’s my rather limited understanding of it–geeks please correct me if I’m wrong).


But I don’t see how this model can possibly scale. When people want to transmit 5 miles or 50 miles, rather than 50 yards, then informal solutions are likely to break down. Unless someone is setting rules concerning who can transmit at what frequencies, and what protocols they use, you’re bound to get a tragedy of the commons in which spectrum is over-used, resulting in no one being able to send clear signals.

Hence, for long range signals, you need rules more complicated than “don’t transmit with more than X watts of power.” Choosing the best rules is likely to be extremely important to getting the maximum use out of the available spectrum. Moreover, the best rules are likely to be complicated, and to change over time. If we put the FCC in charge of making the rules, they’re likely to choose badly, and they’re unlikely to change the rules in a timely manner as technology develops. Therefore, it’s important that the rule-making process be decentralized as much as possible.

Property rights are a mechanism for decentralizing decision making over the use of a scarce resource. To the extent that spectrum is scarce (and it clearly is for long-range applications, although it may not be for short-range), someone will have to decide on its allocation. The only alternative to property-based allocation is centralized, bureaucratic allocation.

Wu asks why private actors would allow permissionless use of spectrum. He’s right that they wouldn’t allow truly permissionless use of spectrum, but it’s easy to imagine a private actor could find it to its advantage to engage in a liberal licensing policy that would have virtually the same effects. Imagine an alternate universe in which all spectrum were propertized. It’s easy to imagine someone buying up a block of spectrum and offering it at a low, fixed rate (say $2 per device) to anyone who wanted to use it for low-powered devices. It seems to me that this arrangement addresses Wu’s concerns about decentralized decision-making nearly as well as unlicensed spectrum.

Moreover, there’s every reason to think that such a strategy could be highly profitable. There are hundreds of millions of devices that use unlicensed spectrum. It’s seems probably that in an environment in which all spectrum were propertized. the profits from offering spectrum on such liberal terms would exceed those from using it for a monolithic purpose such as television broadcasting. Moreover, different firms would likely experiment with different spectrum-sharing rules. The ones that found the most efficient sharing rules would be able to sign up the most licensees and make the most money.

I think this points to an important final point: if I’m right that the correct policy is property rights for long-range spectrum and a commons for short-range uses, there remains the question of how spectrum should be allocated between short- and long-range uses. I think the discussion of the previous paragraph suggests that we should err on the side of more propertizing. If we propertize too much, companies will find it profitable to buy up spectrum and re-license it at low rates to companies making short-range devices (who will be willing to pay extra to avoid the congestion of the unlicensed bands). In contrast, if we create too much unlicensed spectrum, I don’t see any mechanism for converting some of it into licensed spectrum.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I left this comment on the article you reference here, but it’s probably more relevant this posting and I’m too lazy to re-write it, so here you go:
    ****
    I think the issue with spectrum management comes about because of a failure of technical understanding. The people who argue that spectrum doesn’t need to be managed by regulation and auction believe, incorrectly in my opinion, that interference is not a problem for modern packet radio systems.

    This wrong idea has severe consequences. There is a concern, somewhat legitimate, that limited consumer choice in wireline broadband access to the Internet demands some sort of regulation on Internet access plans and services.

    The market solution to this problem is simply to expand consumer choice, and the most straightforward way to do this is through wireless technologys like EVDO and WiMax. But these services depend on reliable wireless channels, and with the radio technologies of today (and the foreseeable future) reliable radio channels depend on “permission” and limited access.

    So the very people who complain about a dearth of choices in broadband Internet access argue for a regulatory status quo for wireless that effectively prevents it from ever becoming a useful alternative to wireline access. It’s easy to become a conspiracy nut when you see things like this, but it’s actually a matter of technical ignorance rather than malice (in most cases; some net neutrality freaks actually want the government to own broadband Internet access networks.)

    The Internet neutrality access regulators have got the problem upside down: the laws of networking suggest choice is enhanced by the de-regulation of wireline services and the regulation of wireless ones, and it’s all because of interference and scarcity. We can always add bandwidth to a wireline system by adding more cable, but with wireless, once its gone its gone.

    They aren’t making any more spectrum, you see.
    ****

    The regulatory approach of the future will probably go beyond the analog “power levels and ownership” system of the past, and dictate packet radio protocols. This will ensure basic interoperability, but not Quality of Service. To ensure QoS, it’s necessary to apply Admission Control and the neut freaks go nuts when you even suggest such a thing. They’re wedded to the idea that network protocols are metaphors for social structure, so their regulatory positions are colored by aesthetic considerations more than technical ones.

  • http://www@pff.com Noel Le

    Thanks to Professor Wu for responding and acknowledging my point that IP already allows decentralization of innovation- a theme of Professor Chesbrough “Open Innovation” work. Professor Wu`s example of the NIH clarifies that I was talking about decentralization away from the state, whereas Tim Lee war talking about decentralization from “monopolies” (ahem, successful companies:). I also was not aware of the efforts at WIPO to expand IP rights, which I dont necessarily agree with.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I left this comment on the article you reference here, but it’s probably more relevant this posting and I’m too lazy to re-write it, so here you go:
    ****
    I think the issue with spectrum management comes about because of a failure of technical understanding. The people who argue that spectrum doesn’t need to be managed by regulation and auction believe, incorrectly in my opinion, that interference is not a problem for modern packet radio systems.

    This wrong idea has severe consequences. There is a concern, somewhat legitimate, that limited consumer choice in wireline broadband access to the Internet demands some sort of regulation on Internet access plans and services.

    The market solution to this problem is simply to expand consumer choice, and the most straightforward way to do this is through wireless technologys like EVDO and WiMax. But these services depend on reliable wireless channels, and with the radio technologies of today (and the foreseeable future) reliable radio channels depend on “permission” and limited access.

    So the very people who complain about a dearth of choices in broadband Internet access argue for a regulatory status quo for wireless that effectively prevents it from ever becoming a useful alternative to wireline access. It’s easy to become a conspiracy nut when you see things like this, but it’s actually a matter of technical ignorance rather than malice (in most cases; some net neutrality freaks actually want the government to own broadband Internet access networks.)

    The Internet neutrality access regulators have got the problem upside down: the laws of networking suggest choice is enhanced by the de-regulation of wireline services and the regulation of wireless ones, and it’s all because of interference and scarcity. We can always add bandwidth to a wireline system by adding more cable, but with wireless, once its gone its gone.

    They aren’t making any more spectrum, you see.
    ****

    The regulatory approach of the future will probably go beyond the analog “power levels and ownership” system of the past, and dictate packet radio protocols. This will ensure basic interoperability, but not Quality of Service. To ensure QoS, it’s necessary to apply Admission Control and the neut freaks go nuts when you even suggest such a thing. They’re wedded to the idea that network protocols are metaphors for social structure, so their regulatory positions are colored by aesthetic considerations more than technical ones.

  • Steve R.

    The radio spectrum is already owned as private property by the government. The government should manage commercial portions of the spectrum in the same manner as any other corporation. Unlike corporations though the goverment must also manage portions of the spectrum for police, fire, military, air traffic control, weather service,ham radio, and citizens band.

    I also believe that the analysis in many of the posts confuse the availability of the spectrum with devices that use the spectrum. For example manufacturers can build and sell many wireless devices to consumers because certain portions of the spectrum are freely available for those uses. As Tim notes, low power devices are nearly non-rivalrous. To go on – the manufactures already have a permissionless market and decentralized decision making process.

    I however, disagree with Tim’s position that long-range spectrum should be propertized. First, as I have previously stated, the spectrum is already owned by the government. While many people perceive of the government as inefficient, I don’t think that a corporation would do any better. Large corporations tend to take on the “look and feel” of government agencies (especially when they are a monopoly). So I don’t see much point in trading one “bad” for another “bad”.

    But wait, Tim of course is advocating a decentralized decision making approach which would imply many smaller nimbler players. While this appears rationale, I don’t think it would work in the real world. As an extreme example, John has a radio station in Washington DC that can be heard in Baltimore. Now Jane in Baltimore claims that she now owns the spectrum in Baltimore and demands that John start paying her. Later Tom in Columbia claims spectrum ownership and starts demanding royalties from both John and Jane. Frankly, I would envision the same mayhem that we are seeing with patent infringement lawsuits which continuously attempt to aggrandize a private property right beyond any reasonable limit. Again, my solution is that the government manage the commercial portions of the spectrum as any corporation would.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Steve, the point wouldn’t be to turn all the spectrum over to one company, but to auction off bits of the spectrum to a lot of different companies. Yes, some companies would manage it as ineptly as the FCC. But others would find innovative ways to use it, or sub-license it to third parties. The key difference isn’t that people in corporations are smarter or better than people in government. It’s that companies would have more competition from other companies.

    As for disputes over spectrum ownership, I don’t see this as a big issue. I think most of the spectrum would be auctioned off on a nation-wide basis, with spectrum owners free to sub-license the spectrum geographically if they choose. The FCC might auction some spectrum on a geographic piecemeal basis, or they might allow spectrum owners to divide and re-sell the spectrum themselves. Either way, I don’t see why it would be all that difficult to keep track of who owned the right to transmit at what frequencies and in which geographical areas.

    The primary issue with the patent system is the lack of clear boundaries between peoples’ rights. I think it would be much easier to define clear boundaries for spectrum rights.

  • Noel Le

    Thanks to Professor Wu for responding and acknowledging my point that IP already allows decentralization of innovation- a theme of Professor Chesbrough “Open Innovation” work. Professor Wu`s example of the NIH clarifies that I was talking about decentralization away from the state, whereas Tim Lee war talking about decentralization from “monopolies” (ahem, successful companies:). I also was not aware of the efforts at WIPO to expand IP rights, which I dont necessarily agree with.

  • Steve R.

    Tim: I agree fully with your assessment that for a reasonable property right to exist that there must be clear boundaries. Unfortunately, we disagree on how this applies to the radio spectrum. But I would still appreciate your take on the government opperating as a business??????? I believe that there is room in the private property discussion for the government to take on a business role.

    PS: I agree with the FCC autioning off the spectrum as a lease were private property ownership is retained by the government. Further, companies could sublease as they desire, they simply wouldn’t own.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Steve:

    Would the lease be perpetual? And would the lessee have flexibility to use the spectrum for different uses? If so, I’m not sure I see any important differences between a perpetual lease and ownership. The only difference is that with formal ownership the property owner pays for the land in an up-front lump sum instead of in installments.

    As for the government operating as a business, I certainly think they should act more like a business when they’re engaged in what are essentially commercial operations. However, I’m skeptical about how feasible that is. To some extent, government is inherently wasteful and bureaucratic.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    The radio spectrum is already owned as private property by the government. The government should manage commercial portions of the spectrum in the same manner as any other corporation. Unlike corporations though the goverment must also manage portions of the spectrum for police, fire, military, air traffic control, weather service,ham radio, and citizens band.

    I also believe that the analysis in many of the posts confuse the availability of the spectrum with devices that use the spectrum. For example manufacturers can build and sell many wireless devices to consumers because certain portions of the spectrum are freely available for those uses. As Tim notes, low power devices are nearly non-rivalrous. To go on – the manufactures already have a permissionless market and decentralized decision making process.

    I however, disagree with Tim’s position that long-range spectrum should be propertized. First, as I have previously stated, the spectrum is already owned by the government. While many people perceive of the government as inefficient, I don’t think that a corporation would do any better. Large corporations tend to take on the “look and feel” of government agencies (especially when they are a monopoly). So I don’t see much point in trading one “bad” for another “bad”.

    But wait, Tim of course is advocating a decentralized decision making approach which would imply many smaller nimbler players. While this appears rationale, I don’t think it would work in the real world. As an extreme example, John has a radio station in Washington DC that can be heard in Baltimore. Now Jane in Baltimore claims that she now owns the spectrum in Baltimore and demands that John start paying her. Later Tom in Columbia claims spectrum ownership and starts demanding royalties from both John and Jane. Frankly, I would envision the same mayhem that we are seeing with patent infringement lawsuits which continuously attempt to aggrandize a private property right beyond any reasonable limit. Again, my solution is that the government manage the commercial portions of the spectrum as any corporation would.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Steve, the point wouldn’t be to turn all the spectrum over to one company, but to auction off bits of the spectrum to a lot of different companies. Yes, some companies would manage it as ineptly as the FCC. But others would find innovative ways to use it, or sub-license it to third parties. The key difference isn’t that people in corporations are smarter or better than people in government. It’s that companies would have more competition from other companies.

    As for disputes over spectrum ownership, I don’t see this as a big issue. I think most of the spectrum would be auctioned off on a nation-wide basis, with spectrum owners free to sub-license the spectrum geographically if they choose. The FCC might auction some spectrum on a geographic piecemeal basis, or they might allow spectrum owners to divide and re-sell the spectrum themselves. Either way, I don’t see why it would be all that difficult to keep track of who owned the right to transmit at what frequencies and in which geographical areas.

    The primary issue with the patent system is the lack of clear boundaries between peoples’ rights. I think it would be much easier to define clear boundaries for spectrum rights.

  • Steve R.

    It is not uncommon for leases to be granted for extended periods of time. From the perspective of this forum which is too encourage technological advance, I would advocate a fairly short period such as ten years to provide opportunities for new players to enter the market.

    I, unfortunately, can’t refute that government is inherently wasteful and bureaucratic. Furthermore, one of the problems that I have whenever the government is discussed as one entity is the fact that government, if it were one entity, really suffers from a multiple personality disorder. Essentially government is schizophrenic.

    You in fact recognized this to a degree when you wrote “Railroad Network Neutrality and New Technologies” on August 3, 2006. You wrote “As I explain, the pro-regulatory side won that debate, creating the Interstate Commerce Committee. And the results were not good: by the 1920s, the ICC was helping the railroads restrict entry and raise prices. In 1935, as a result of railroad and ICC lobbying, Congress gave the ICC authority over the trucking industry. And the surface transportation industry was uncompetitive for the half-century that followed. As a Ralph Nader report put it in 1970, the commission became “primarily a forum at which transportation interests divide up the national transportation market.””. What I am trying to say is that while many people complain that government is obstructing business they fail to also see that government is also in bed with business (Kelo v. City of New London). I believe that government should be in business and NOT give special privilages to business (such as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act).

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Tim: I agree fully with your assessment that for a reasonable property right to exist that there must be clear boundaries. Unfortunately, we disagree on how this applies to the radio spectrum. But I would still appreciate your take on the government opperating as a business??????? I believe that there is room in the private property discussion for the government to take on a business role.

    PS: I agree with the FCC autioning off the spectrum as a lease were private property ownership is retained by the government. Further, companies could sublease as they desire, they simply wouldn’t own.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Steve:

    Would the lease be perpetual? And would the lessee have flexibility to use the spectrum for different uses? If so, I’m not sure I see any important differences between a perpetual lease and ownership. The only difference is that with formal ownership the property owner pays for the land in an up-front lump sum instead of in installments.

    As for the government operating as a business, I certainly think they should act more like a business when they’re engaged in what are essentially commercial operations. However, I’m skeptical about how feasible that is. To some extent, government is inherently wasteful and bureaucratic.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    It is not uncommon for leases to be granted for extended periods of time. From the perspective of this forum which is too encourage technological advance, I would advocate a fairly short period such as ten years to provide opportunities for new players to enter the market.

    I, unfortunately, can’t refute that government is inherently wasteful and bureaucratic. Furthermore, one of the problems that I have whenever the government is discussed as one entity is the fact that government, if it were one entity, really suffers from a multiple personality disorder. Essentially government is schizophrenic.

    You in fact recognized this to a degree when you wrote “Railroad Network Neutrality and New Technologies” on August 3, 2006. You wrote “As I explain, the pro-regulatory side won that debate, creating the Interstate Commerce Committee. And the results were not good: by the 1920s, the ICC was helping the railroads restrict entry and raise prices. In 1935, as a result of railroad and ICC lobbying, Congress gave the ICC authority over the trucking industry. And the surface transportation industry was uncompetitive for the half-century that followed. As a Ralph Nader report put it in 1970, the commission became “primarily a forum at which transportation interests divide up the national transportation market.””. What I am trying to say is that while many people complain that government is obstructing business they fail to also see that government is also in bed with business (Kelo v. City of New London). I believe that government should be in business and NOT give special privilages to business (such as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act).

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    There’s a name for the system of government where the government is in business: fascism. It generally doesn’t work too well, but it has been known to make the trains run on time.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    There’s a name for the system of government where the government is in business: fascism. It generally doesn’t work too well, but it has been known to make the trains run on time.

  • Steve R.

    I think the word Corporatism is more applicable, but no point quibbling since we are getting off-topic. I don’t want the radio waves jumping the property fence andn escaping.:)

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    I think the word Corporatism is more applicable, but no point quibbling since we are getting off-topic. I don’t want the radio waves jumping the property fence andn escaping.:)

  • http://www.jerrybrito.com Jerry Brito

    I’ve been very busy lately and so I have been negligent in following the discussion here, which has been good. In this post Tim has laid out very well my feelings about unlicensed spectrum, so I don’t have much to add. The one thing I would say is that I wouldn’t necessarilly make an explicit distinction between “short-range and long-range spectrum.” One reason is that short range devices can interfere with each other just the same if you get enough of them together. Instead I think the reason unlicensed spectrum works for short-range devices is that short-range device use maps to physical property, which is, well, property. As a result of physical property rights, a coffee shop owner or a university owner of a campus controls (owns?) the unlicensed spectrum within its boundaries, thus making commons use feasible. As I see it, even in a propertized spectrum regime, physical property owners should be able to use any frequency they want as long as any interference caused is internalized by them within their property. That is, if you want to set-up some sort of super-fast wireless gaming system within your home, but it uses a television station’s spectrum and therefore makes over-the-air TV in your (an only your) home unwatchable, you should nevertheless be free to do so. (Current law prohibits this.)

    To answer Tim Wu, permissionless market entry would be great. But, the rules needed to create a spectrum commons with permisionless entry will necessarilly limit what entrants can do with the spectrum (e.g. power limits). While such rules might create more entry, they will likely also prevent spectrum from being put to its most valuable use. Second, and the main point of my paper, is that if we are all agreed that command-and-control spectrum management is inefficient, then government created commons are not an alternative because the same inefficient command-and-control processes will be employed to set commons rules.

  • http://jerrybrito.com Jerry Brito

    I’ve been very busy lately and so I have been negligent in following the discussion here, which has been good. In this post Tim has laid out very well my feelings about unlicensed spectrum, so I don’t have much to add. The one thing I would say is that I wouldn’t necessarilly make an explicit distinction between “short-range and long-range spectrum.” One reason is that short range devices can interfere with each other just the same if you get enough of them together. Instead I think the reason unlicensed spectrum works for short-range devices is that short-range device use maps to physical property, which is, well, property. As a result of physical property rights, a coffee shop owner or a university owner of a campus controls (owns?) the unlicensed spectrum within its boundaries, thus making commons use feasible. As I see it, even in a propertized spectrum regime, physical property owners should be able to use any frequency they want as long as any interference caused is internalized by them within their property. That is, if you want to set-up some sort of super-fast wireless gaming system within your home, but it uses a television station’s spectrum and therefore makes over-the-air TV in your (an only your) home unwatchable, you should nevertheless be free to do so. (Current law prohibits this.)

    To answer Tim Wu, permissionless market entry would be great. But, the rules needed to create a spectrum commons with permisionless entry will necessarilly limit what entrants can do with the spectrum (e.g. power limits). While such rules might create more entry, they will likely also prevent spectrum from being put to its most valuable use. Second, and the main point of my paper, is that if we are all agreed that command-and-control spectrum management is inefficient, then government created commons are not an alternative because the same inefficient command-and-control processes will be employed to set commons rules.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    …government created commons are not an alternative because the same inefficient command-and-control processes will be employed to set commons rules.

    One has only to look at the network neutrality rules proposed by Snowe-Dorgan, Markey, and the others to see this principle in action: in the name of management of the commons, the morons want to ban all for-fee QoS for everybody. For-fee QoS is a perfectly legitimate service that’s key to successfully absorbing TV and telephony onto IP networks, but these idiots only see it as enforcing the “Tony Soprano model of networking.”

    This is “The Tragedy of the Commons” writ large.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    …government created commons are not an alternative because the same inefficient command-and-control processes will be employed to set commons rules.

    One has only to look at the network neutrality rules proposed by Snowe-Dorgan, Markey, and the others to see this principle in action: in the name of management of the commons, the morons want to ban all for-fee QoS for everybody. For-fee QoS is a perfectly legitimate service that’s key to successfully absorbing TV and telephony onto IP networks, but these idiots only see it as enforcing the “Tony Soprano model of networking.”

    This is “The Tragedy of the Commons” writ large.

  • Tim Wu

    This is a good and interesting discussion. I am left thinking that the entire debate revolves around two facts:

    1. How serious are the interference problems at various frequencies; and
    2. How limiting for market entrants are the any set of rules that might deal with those intereference problems.

    The answer to those two questions for various frequencies, if they exist, determines the ideal mix of unlicensed and propertized spectrum.

    As for which side to err on. While obviously interference problems exist, my concern is that they can be fetishized. For example, during the low-power FM radio debate, trumped up claims of interference that was really impossible to detect manage to kill the FCC’s proposals. The problem with claims of interference is that there’s always SOME — and if that’s a trump card it kills alot of interesting spectrum proposals.

    Its similar to the criticisms of ethernet. Obviously ethernet is a protocol that’s going to lose alot of packets. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great anyhow. If you were a real stickler for perfect networking, you’d say no to ethernet, and that’s the same instinct i have with unlicensed spectrum. Lossly but maybe good.

    Finally, as for “command and control.” If we agree that the experiment with unlicensed garage band spectrum was a success (perhaps for the reasons suggested) it cannot be true that all commons schemes are doomed to failure as “command and control” regimes.

    Finally finally. As much as I like talking about network neutrality, it can’t be that EVERY issue we discuss here somehow need to be related to the “Tony Soprano model of networking?”

    TW

  • Tim Wu

    This is a good and interesting discussion. I am left thinking that the entire debate revolves around two facts:

    1. How serious are the interference problems at various frequencies; and
    2. How limiting for market entrants are the any set of rules that might deal with those intereference problems.

    The answer to those two questions for various frequencies, if they exist, determines the ideal mix of unlicensed and propertized spectrum.

    As for which side to err on. While obviously interference problems exist, my concern is that they can be fetishized. For example, during the low-power FM radio debate, trumped up claims of interference that was really impossible to detect manage to kill the FCC’s proposals. The problem with claims of interference is that there’s always SOME — and if that’s a trump card it kills alot of interesting spectrum proposals.

    Its similar to the criticisms of ethernet. Obviously ethernet is a protocol that’s going to lose alot of packets. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great anyhow. If you were a real stickler for perfect networking, you’d say no to ethernet, and that’s the same instinct i have with unlicensed spectrum. Lossly but maybe good.

    Finally, as for “command and control.” If we agree that the experiment with unlicensed garage band spectrum was a success (perhaps for the reasons suggested) it cannot be true that all commons schemes are doomed to failure as “command and control” regimes.

    Finally finally. As much as I like talking about network neutrality, it can’t be that EVERY issue we discuss here somehow need to be related to the “Tony Soprano model of networking?”

    TW

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    If you were a real stickler for perfect networking, you’d say no to ethernet, and that’s the same instinct i have with unlicensed spectrum. Lossly but maybe good.

    There’s actually a third option beyond “take it or leave it,” which is “improve it.” The original Ethernet – Bob Metcalfe’s Ethernet – was prone to congestion and loss under high load because it relied on a fully-distributed access control scheme, and those things never work well. So we improved it by adding a level of centralization above the individual computer level – the hub or switch – with the ability to mediate access among a group of computers by exercising flow-control and using queuing. This is the Ethernet that we all use today, and it almost never drops a frame.

    The designers of Bob Metcalfe’s system fetishized decentralization and noise immunity, and didn’t pay enough attention to ensuring high throughput, a typical rookie mistake. But in 1973, we were all network rookies, um, except for the phone company, and their contributions made Ethernet the robust, high-performance system it is today. There’s no substitute for experience.

    Regarding radio interference, the issue isn’t frequency as much as it is power levels and coding (coding being the ways that bits are represented in the analog domain and extracted therefrom.) We can design point-to-point packet radio schemes with frequency and code division agility that adjust and adapt around similar point-to-point exchanges, but designing point-to-multipoint schemes like WiMax and WiFi with agility is a lot harder, which is to say more costly to throughput. Someday we may be able to solve the problem of multiple simultaneous packet radio streams at the same frequency with no reduction in throughput, but we’re nowhere close to it today. The people who say they’ve solved it have actually solved the easier point-to-point case.

    The irony of Tony Soprano is that he’s a character on a premium cable show who was roped into a scheme to deny a premium option to Internet users. If you’d have said it was “the HBO model of networking” I would have agreed.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    If you were a real stickler for perfect networking, you’d say no to ethernet, and that’s the same instinct i have with unlicensed spectrum. Lossly but maybe good.

    There’s actually a third option beyond “take it or leave it,” which is “improve it.” The original Ethernet – Bob Metcalfe’s Ethernet – was prone to congestion and loss under high load because it relied on a fully-distributed access control scheme, and those things never work well. So we improved it by adding a level of centralization above the individual computer level – the hub or switch – with the ability to mediate access among a group of computers by exercising flow-control and using queuing. This is the Ethernet that we all use today, and it almost never drops a frame.

    The designers of Bob Metcalfe’s system fetishized decentralization and noise immunity, and didn’t pay enough attention to ensuring high throughput, a typical rookie mistake. But in 1973, we were all network rookies, um, except for the phone company, and their contributions made Ethernet the robust, high-performance system it is today. There’s no substitute for experience.

    Regarding radio interference, the issue isn’t frequency as much as it is power levels and coding (coding being the ways that bits are represented in the analog domain and extracted therefrom.) We can design point-to-point packet radio schemes with frequency and code division agility that adjust and adapt around similar point-to-point exchanges, but designing point-to-multipoint schemes like WiMax and WiFi with agility is a lot harder, which is to say more costly to throughput. Someday we may be able to solve the problem of multiple simultaneous packet radio streams at the same frequency with no reduction in throughput, but we’re nowhere close to it today. The people who say they’ve solved it have actually solved the easier point-to-point case.

    The irony of Tony Soprano is that he’s a character on a premium cable show who was roped into a scheme to deny a premium option to Internet users. If you’d have said it was “the HBO model of networking” I would have agreed.

  • Steve R.

    Ironically, Richard has a valid point – a DRM type technology can be employed to essentially eliminate interference, but that would require that the receiving radio has the ability to de-code the signal. While Richard has a valid point, I would not want to see that scenario implemented. (This technology already exists and is utilized in a limited manner to provide remote control of repeaters and other types of radio equipment.)

    I disagree with Jerry’s statement: “Second, and the main point of my paper, is that if we are all agreed that command-and-control spectrum management is inefficient, then government created commons are not an alternative because the same inefficient command-and-control processes will be employed to set commons rules.” My belief is that it is a pointless exercise to replace the government with a private entity that will do the same thing.

    To explain, lets assume that Washington DC and Baltimore are seperate markets (property rights). Only a finite number of “deeds” can be granted since the spectrum real estate is limited.

    Initially we will have a free wheeling and open market envisioned by the TLF. Over time, however, we can assume that one or more corporations will buy all the deeds to a piece of spectrum and begin to assert monopoly power. While this is going on all the various players will also begin to organize into formal and informal “associations” to work out any problems so that the system functions. (This type of approach is used in the ham radio community to coordinate repeaters and I believe represents a positive aspect of how the FCC is managing the spectrum. The FCC has delegeted local spectrum control to the users to self regulate.)

    To conclude, the appearance of monopoly power and associations will result in a private FCC with all the same command and control inefficiencies of the existing government FCC. I would prefer the government FCC, since in theory; it would be managing the spectrum on behalf of the citizens of this country.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Ironically, Richard has a valid point – a DRM type technology can be employed to essentially eliminate interference, but that would require that the receiving radio has the ability to de-code the signal. While Richard has a valid point, I would not want to see that scenario implemented. (This technology already exists and is utilized in a limited manner to provide remote control of repeaters and other types of radio equipment.)

    I disagree with Jerry’s statement: “Second, and the main point of my paper, is that if we are all agreed that command-and-control spectrum management is inefficient, then government created commons are not an alternative because the same inefficient command-and-control processes will be employed to set commons rules.” My belief is that it is a pointless exercise to replace the government with a private entity that will do the same thing.

    To explain, lets assume that Washington DC and Baltimore are seperate markets (property rights). Only a finite number of “deeds” can be granted since the spectrum real estate is limited.

    Initially we will have a free wheeling and open market envisioned by the TLF. Over time, however, we can assume that one or more corporations will buy all the deeds to a piece of spectrum and begin to assert monopoly power. While this is going on all the various players will also begin to organize into formal and informal “associations” to work out any problems so that the system functions. (This type of approach is used in the ham radio community to coordinate repeaters and I believe represents a positive aspect of how the FCC is managing the spectrum. The FCC has delegeted local spectrum control to the users to self regulate.)

    To conclude, the appearance of monopoly power and associations will result in a private FCC with all the same command and control inefficiencies of the existing government FCC. I would prefer the government FCC, since in theory; it would be managing the spectrum on behalf of the citizens of this country.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    …a DRM type technology can be employed to essentially eliminate interference…

    I didn’t say that.

  • Steve R.

    Richard: My appoligies, I did not mean to imply that. I was simply pointing to a type of technology in the abstract.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    …a DRM type technology can be employed to essentially eliminate interference…

    I didn’t say that.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Richard: My appoligies, I did not mean to imply that. I was simply pointing to a type of technology in the abstract.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    DRM doesn’t have anything to do with channel interference or the lack thereof. The mention I made to code division pertains to coding for transmission, not for protection from theft.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    DRM doesn’t have anything to do with channel interference or the lack thereof. The mention I made to code division pertains to coding for transmission, not for protection from theft.

  • Steve R.

    You are correct that I used a “bad” and “loaded” term. I may have exceeded my level of technical competence. I was not referening to DRM in terms of its common usage, the “protection” of content, but as a means of segregating the transmission of data so that there would not be any interference. Again my appologies for presenting a bad and inappropriate example.

    PS: I am thinking of posting to “Cyren Call, Verizon, and public safety”. The theme will be that there is still a great deal of confusion between access to the spectrum and the devices that allow you to use the spectrum. The issue appears to me more how public safety agencies design (devices used) their radio system than access to the spectrum. If I post, it will be a while since I will be busy with other activities.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    You are correct that I used a “bad” and “loaded” term. I may have exceeded my level of technical competence. I was not referening to DRM in terms of its common usage, the “protection” of content, but as a means of segregating the transmission of data so that there would not be any interference. Again my appologies for presenting a bad and inappropriate example.

    PS: I am thinking of posting to “Cyren Call, Verizon, and public safety”. The theme will be that there is still a great deal of confusion between access to the spectrum and the devices that allow you to use the spectrum. The issue appears to me more how public safety agencies design (devices used) their radio system than access to the spectrum. If I post, it will be a while since I will be busy with other activities.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I’m not aware of any use of DRM techniques to prevent inteference in a channel. Perhaps you’re thinking of scrambing messages so only the intended receiver can decode them? If you do that, you still create interference for other stations on the channel, even though all they see is digital noise. Their potential throughput is still degraded, in other words.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I’m not aware of any use of DRM techniques to prevent inteference in a channel. Perhaps you’re thinking of scrambing messages so only the intended receiver can decode them? If you do that, you still create interference for other stations on the channel, even though all they see is digital noise. Their potential throughput is still degraded, in other words.

  • Steve R.

    I chose a poor and innapropriate example. In short, I was sloppy with my analogy.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    I chose a poor and innapropriate example. In short, I was sloppy with my analogy.

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