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A Fresh Start in Communications Policy

Sep 2008
Working Paper
08-016
By  Bruce Owen
A country that leads the world in the development of the technologies that have revolutionized communications services should not have a second-rate system for regulating those services. Our communication policy is an embarrassment to the United States and a bad example to other countries. Fixing the economy, Social Security, and the health care system may be more pressing, but repairing America’s communications policies should be on the agenda as well. The new President and Congress should try to make America’s communication policy worthy of America’s communications technology and its people. But that will not be easy.

This brief essay offers an overview of what needs fixing and why, and of the obstacles to reform. I suggest two specific policy initiatives, both aimed at loosening the persistent grip of obsolete decisions on current policy. One useful reform would be to permit spectrum users to resell or re-purpose their frequencies, so long as no new interference is created for other users. A second helpful reform would mandate that all individual rules and regulations contain provisions for automatic expiration after a term of years.