Jul 18, 2022Liked by Brent Skorup

great stuff! where can i read the story about how RAND and the FCC were against spectrum sales?

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The essay is too quick to dismiss the idea of “universal” and “interoperable” air traffic management and auctions aren’t a panacea to all the problems it’s purported to be. Fundamentally, these assets (spectrum, air routes, etc) are as fungible as real estate and are subject to the same tragedy of commons problems.

It’s fortunate that spectrum auctions have work as well as they have, but it’s easy to imagine an alternate scenario where most of the good spectrum for running a telecom is controlled by a monopoly with little incentive innovate. And indeed this was the case until T-Mobile merged with Sprint to acquire the mid-band spectrum it needed to compete with duopoly of AT&T and Verizon.

But home Internet hasn’t been as successful with incumbent providers (like Comcast) actively preventing competition in their space by lobbying against municipal broadband. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are left without service or severely outdated and slow service (like DSL), and for ones who do their service is expensive, inconsistent, and are subjected to a variety of fees and data caps. In an alternate world, municipalities would provide the fiber and companies provide the service of turning the fiber into an Internet service. Sort of like “universal” and “interoperable” infrastructure. Instead one company usually controls the fiber in an area and thus exclusively controls the Internet business and (lack of) competition in that area.

For airspace in particular, it is similarly easy to imagine a scenario where one company owns a critical air route that all drones go through and subsequently sits on it with rent-seeking intentions and no real ambitions of innovating.

Ideally the solution here is both not either: the FAA sets a sensible but flexible standard that both ensures all traffic can flow freely (without resorting to splitting the airspace into toll-extracting fiefdoms) and allows airspace application innovations to continue.

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China is 5 years ahead of us in drone deployment, so we could save time and money by asking their advice.


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