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.
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Filed Under: open, property rights, scott cleland, spectrum

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  1. identicon
    IanM, 5 Feb 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

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