Comments and Suggestions Welcomed
Revolutionary Ideas for Radio Regulation
Douglas A. Galbi
Federal Communications Commission
National and international broadband strategies should include radical changes in radio regulation. Radio technology is the key to rapid broadband development that reaches even geographically remote areas of the world. To get radical changes in radio regulation, a new world-wide conversation is needed around three questions. First, what is a good separation and balance of powers in radio regulation? Second, how should radio regulation be geographically configured? Third, how should radio regulation understand and respect personal freedom? Most persons understand revolutionary ideas that answer these three questions. The challenge is to recognize this common knowledge and apply it to radio regulation.
I. Revolutionary Ideas
II. Separation and Balance of Powers
A. Long-Run Decline in Administrative Enforcement
B. Limited Information Matters
C. Insecure Radio Rights?
III. Regulatory Geography
A. Geography Truly Matters
C. Barren Deliberation in the
D. Not Whether But Where to Set Boundaries
IV. Personal Freedom and Licensing
A. Different Kinds of Freedom: Hams, Hackers, and Yackers
1. Amateur Radio
2. The Internet
3. Commercial Wireless Services
4. Freedom around the World
B. Natural Freedoms and Equal Rights
1. Implications of Intentionality
2. Sexual Awareness in Radio Regulation
3. Software Rights for Adults
C. Freedom in the House
V. What To Do?
Appendix A – Extended Notes to Tables
Appendix B – A Desperate Case under the Commerce Clause:
in Radio Regulation
B-I. Case History of the Federal-State Balance in Radio Regulation
B-II. Misunderstanding Commerce in the Real World
B-III. Re-Articulating Commerce
B-IV. Spurring Fruitful Deliberation
B-V. Doing Justice in Communications
Appendix C – Communications Capabilities around the World
Local telephony is not just about wires, and neither are the
Internet and digital devices. Wireless communications revenue has risen
from 5% of world telecommunications revenue in 1991 to 28% in the year 2000. The number of wireless subscribers
exceeds the number of wireline connections in
countries as different as
The evolution of the wireless industry may create concerns
about market power. Thus far, wireless communications revenue has consisted
mainly of undifferentiated voice services. Particularly in
Wireless technology can bring new communications services to
rural and under-served areas. In only five years of growth, mobile
telephony has spurred a five-fold increase in the number of telephone
Economic growth, job creation, the concentration of economic power, the geographic distribution of communications services, and even efficient use of radio spectrum, all depend significantly on radio regulation. But historically, these issues have not shaped radio regulation. They are unlikely to shape radio regulation in the future.
In recent years the telecom industry has experienced an investment debacle of unprecedented magnitude. How can anyone have faith that industry expertise is the key to reforming radio regulation? Faith is better placed in more promising sources of wisdom.
Articulating revolutionary ideas about government, persons, and freedom offers the best hope for improving radio regulation. This paper focuses on non-content-related radio licensing and service rules – issues that are generally discussed in terms of regulating radio signal interference. This paper draws on ideas from real, significant, historical revolutions over the past five centuries to create deliberatively productive tension around three important but neglected questions. First, what is a good separation and balance of powers in radio regulation? Second, how should radio regulation be geographically configured? Third, how should radio regulation understand and respect personal freedom?
Even in historically propitious circumstances, these questions have hardly been discussed. Knowledge of centuries of conversation has been absent from consciousness. In some cases the result has been a totalizing system of radio regulation thinly disguised as necessity. Open, free, and vigorous deliberation, among persons with no more expertise than a sense for who they are and where they came from, can produce better ways of governing. Getting right the details of regulation is crucial and requires considerable field-specific knowledge and experience. But persons who have learned only the most revolutionary knowledge about human beings and the world have much unused but useful knowledge for radio regulation. That knowledge should guide current policy discussions of radio regulation.
 The most current version is available from http://www.galbithink.org and http://users.erols.com/dgalbi/telpol/think.htm .
The opinions and conclusions expressed in this paper are those of the
author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal
Communications Commission, its Commissioners, or any staff other than the
author. I am grateful for numerous FCC colleagues who have helped me and
encouraged me over the past seven years of my career at the FCC. Author’s
address: [email protected]; FCC, 445 12’th
 ITU (2002a).
 ITU (2001), Figure 2.
 The head of Merrill Lynch’s Global Wireless Research stated that, to improve the industry’s investment perspective, there needs to be “stabilization of prices,” reduction in subscriber churn, and, most importantly, industry consolidation. See Mutschler (2002).. McKinsey consultants say the same. See Isern and Rios (2002), p. 86-9. Pitofsky (1979) explains the significance of economic power to competition policy..
 ITU (2000) p. 4 and ITU (2002b).
 Beyer, Vestrich, and Garcia-Luna-Aceves (1996) describes non-commercial community wireless networking. See also Prairie inet (www.prairieinet.net), SFLan (http://www.sflan.com) and Technology Review (2001).
A Nov. 2001 newspaper article declared: “Bigger than the
 For those interested in programming regulation, Krattenmaker and Powe (1994) provide an outstanding analysis. Galbi (2001a) provides some related data and analysis.
 Productive tension depends on boundaries, opposition, and difference. It does not imply animosity or rigid defense of convention. See King (1963) esp. p. 79.