Last week the FCC auctioned off “licenses” to several bands of radio spectrum for in-flight wireless services. One firm purchased 3 MHz of spectrum for $31.3 million and another company received the remaining 1 MHz for $7 million.
While both BK Marcus and I have discussed the role of State intervention involved with spectrum ownership, this latest auction punctuates the rather absurd ‘public goods’ monopoly that the FCC has been given.
The FCC did not create the radio spectrum, it did not homestead it — it neither used the various frequencies first nor does it somehow maintain the varying frequencies it claims to hold title to. In fact, if the FCC somehow disappeared tomorrow, the radio spectrum would continue to exist in the same manner it has since time immemorial.
With the revenue generated from the sale of spectrum, the FCC does not wax and shine each and every frequency. It does not somehow fine-tune the harmonics of each frequency or lubricate Mother Nature for optimal performance.
Scarce resources such as land, water and air are all capable of being manipulated in terms of utility; however the FCC does not and cannot do anything to the spectrum because it does not control the nature of it. Rather, the FCC uses the monies raised to bully and force firms and individuals into an artificially constrained system, a system entirely divorced from the physics and reality of how the electromagnetic spectrum works.
Thus, while travelers may now find more communications options available to them in the future, this is just another act in a dark comedy. The frequencies had always been there and always will be — nature does not beckon to the FCC.