Grokking Spectrum


One of the more important, more contentious, and more complicated tech policy issues is radio spectrum allocation. It’s an issue I don’t have a lot of background experience in but have been learning a lot about lately.

It’s a hot topic right now because the FCC is about to hold incentive auctions to transition some of our airwaves from TV use to broadband internet use.  It also made the front page of the Washington Post last week, which caused a bunch of confusion about what’s going on

It’s all kind of hard to grok.

To get my head wrapped around it, I’m reading through the New America Foundation’s excellent Citizen’s Guide to the Airwaves (published in 2003 but lays out the essential foundation afaict).  New America also has a website dedicated to the issue at

What I do know is that it’s important that we leverage our spectrum assets to enable as much innovation as possible.  Not only to improve our baseline internet connectivity (which is really bad), but to allow for lots of new uses of the spectrum that we might not anticipate (as happened with Wifi and Bluetooth in the unlicensed high frequency bands).

Update: Harold Feld tells us that we really could have long-distance nationwide wifi.