Lawrence Lessig: Disband the FCC

December 24, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More

Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig is a student of history.  He has documented that, despite their proclaimed goals, most government regulatory agencies end up promoting “excessive government favors and excessive private monopoly power.”

In light of this history,) Lessig recommends that we disband the FCC and that we replace it with an innovation-promoting agency:

President Obama should get Congress to shut down the FCC and similar vestigial regulators, which put stability and special interests above the public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with a simple founding mission: “minimal intervention to maximize innovation.” The iEPA’s core purpose would be to protect innovation from its two historical enemies—excessive government favors, and excessive private monopoly power.

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Category: Communication, Media, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Life without the FCC… Hmmmmm

    I remember the CB radio fad of the 1970's.

    The history of the time gives us a perfect example of the end results of deregulation.

    Early in the development of radio technology, it became apparent that some sort of management was needed to make the most efficient use of the radio spectrum. The FCC was formed to regulate the use of radio,telephone, and telegraph communications. From it's earliest days it favored the interests of the corporations.

    During WWII, Amateur radio usage was suspended for national security reasons. After the war, however, the companies that had manufactured radio gear for the military saw their profits drop and convinced the FCC to allocate 5 bands in the radio spectrum for civilian use. These were called Citizen Bands in the US and were designated for short range communications by private citizens. Each band had different requirements, restrictions and technical limitations. The initial two classes, A and B were in the vhf and uhf ranges, and were limited to a practical range of 50 miles by the laws of physics.

    Class D CB,which was allocated in 1958, however, operated on the 11-meter wavelength range (around 27 MHz) Which happened to be the the best set of frequencies for international communications. The politicians were convinced that by restricting output power of the transmitter to 5 watts maximum, the range would be limited. (they lied.)

    In the 1970's CB radios became popularized in the media and sales of CB radios skyrocketed. Initially CB call signs and licenses were issued by the FCC, for a nominal fee, but due to the availability of second-hand radios, many unlicensed used started using fake callsigns, or simply ignoring the call sign and licensing requirement all together.

    eventually, the licensing requirement was dropped, in a sort of defacto deregulation.

    At t6he peak of the CB fad, an estimated 7.5 million radios were in use mostly on channels 11 and 19. Since the radio signals could travel thousands of miles, the resulting increase in background noise limited tie useful range to as little as 200 feet. (The noise effect is similar to being in a crowded room where everyone is talking. you have to be very close to who you are talking to for them to understand your words over the noise) To add to the "anything goes" attitude, many hard-core CB hobbyists began using power amplifiers to boost the signal, These amplifiers were designed for the 10-meter amateur band, and were not tuned to the 11 meter band and as a result put out more interference that signal.

    In the end, something that began as a good idea for the masses, was turned int a fairly useless toy for the masses, by deregulation, but in the process, a few corporations made lots of money.

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