Open Does Not Mean Communal

from the kill-this-myth dept

I hesitate to post anything that involves Scott Cleland, a telecom "analyst" who has a bit of a reputation for, well, perhaps stretching the truth in order to make a point that supports the big telcos who pay him to be a public advocate. However, with InfoWorld positioning him as a legitimate critic of the FCC's open spectrum rules and hearing him make statements like: "Everybody throws the word 'open' around and says open is wonderful. But 'open' means communal. It means not owned," it seems a response is necessary. This is an old trick used by those who can't actually come up with a reason why "open" systems are bad. So they fall back on the false claim that open means communist, and that's bad.

There are just a few problems with this statement, with the big one being that it's completely wrong. First of all, "open" hardly means communal or communist. In fact, it often means exactly the opposite. It means creating a platform or a standard on which multiple parties can compete, as capitalists, rather than locking people out via a government-granted monopoly. Also, the smear that "open means not owned," is used to suggest that open systems are somehow antithetical to property rights. Again, this is hogwash. First of all, when discussing spectrum, we're never talking about property that is owned anyway -- merely a bit of the air that is licensed. Spectrum is, by it's very nature, the property of everyone. That's not a "communist" idea -- it's a factual one. The various spectrum auctions aren't about owning property, they're about getting a license from the FCC to be able to do something with the spectrum that is already around us.

What Cleland is really arguing for is the idea that it's better to have government-granted monopolies limited to a few big providers (mostly the ones who back his firm), rather than a more level playing field that creates real competition in a real market. For him to suggest that an "open" system is somehow less capitalistic than one that involves a gov't agency granting monopoly rights is simply laughable.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    teapot, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:28am


    lol that guy who is saying something about communism is a dumbass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    km, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    =: open :=

    +: open means just that :+ //km:
    ,: open is open :,
    ,: open is not closed :,
    ,: open gives us options :,
    ,: open is fair :,
    ,: open is balanced :,
    ,: open is not like Fox News :,
    -: open means just that :- //:km

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 4th, 2008 @ 9:41am


    Hey Cleland!

    If you think "open means not owned," then you're dead wrong. Before it's even licensed, the spectrum floating around our heads IS OWNED. It's owned by the citizens of the USA (or whatever country you happen to live in, for our readers outside the USA.)

    Your arguments, applied to a Parks System, would say that having public parks in cities, states, and nationally means that that land is NOT OWNED!!! Yikes. The National Parks Service is communist! Time to shut down all the parks and lease the land to a friend of free enterprise like Exxon Mobil or Asplundh. The free market will put the land to appropriate use.

    On the other hand, if you're right, then Parks are communist, and then at least one could get health care in Yosemite.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 10:49am

    Hey Mike!!!

    You're normally really good at it.. but um.. you forgot this time.

    Please don't feed the trolls!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Karl, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 11:48am


    I think taking Cleland seriously is kind of like asking the local Ronald McDonald actor for his thoughts on whether McDonalds is a good investment opportunity...

    Man is a walking distortion box/press release.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 11:51am

    Unless something has changed, "open" here means that whoever gets the spectrum in question can't require subscribers to use specific devices as a condition of service. Some carriers have detailed rules listing what features are not permissible (anything that acts as a substitute for the carrier's service, such as installing ringtones or getting your camera-phone pics out without sending them over the air). I fail to see how allowing manufacturers to sell products that consumers want is "communism".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 12:41pm


    "I fail to see how allowing manufacturers to sell products that consumers want is "communism".

    That's because you don't have your head up your ass, or according to Cleland are a pinko commie.

    Sometimes I hate the press. They never seem to try to find the truth in things any more. They just want their paycheck and damn the consequences.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Matt Bennett, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 1:35pm

    Ok, so Professor Mike, How does exaclty does an "Open" system work? Who gets to decide who gets use what spectrum when?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Shortlink, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 7:27pm

    Open does mean communal in this case

    No matter how you slice it OSF pushes a solution that is truely communal. To state that it is the "opposite" of communal is deceptive at best. The bias in the article is clear when the author states the alternative is: "government-granted monopolies" shows that there is a bias toward open source and that true alternativies (i.e. free commersicalism) are not even seen through the rose colored glasses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Shortlink, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 7:29pm

    Re: =: open :=

    In a short paragraph you have shown that Open means "closed minded" for you in both software and politics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Shaun Wilson, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 11:38pm

    Re: Open does mean communal in this case

    Umm... you seem to be getting a bit confused here. You are sort of right in that open source is somewhat like communal - except that as Mike has pointed out before coppyright is a government granted monopoly not property and actually serves to prevent the "free commercialism" of the ideas.

    In terms of the actual issue that Mike was discussing, the spectrum allocations, how is granting a monopoly "free commercialism"? Really true "free commercialism" of the spectrum would mean that everyone would be "free" to use whatever part of the spectrum they wanted to and there would be no monopoly right granted on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    IanM, Feb 5th, 2008 @ 12:04am


    Well Matt, how about this for a method of sharing the airwaves - the transmitting device listens on the chosen frequency until nothing is heard and then starts transmitting. As soon as it detects that what it's sending and what it's hearing are different, it stops, waits a random amount of time, and then tries again.

    Won't work? Well, tell that to everyone in the world who uses Ethernet.

    Of course, it can be improved for radio - you can also switch frequencies slightly to avoid other radio traffic.

    Note - not my idea - I got it from 'The Future of Ideas' by Lawrence Lessig

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2008 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Open does mean communal in this case

    Open source is not "communal",

    It is essentially private property of users and everybody who possess a copy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Hide this ad »
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Hide this ad »
Techdirt Insider Chat
Hide this ad »
Recent Stories
Hide this ad »


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.