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The “Seinfeld” fight between high-tech firms and broadcasters over “nothing” is actually about free speech for generations to come 9/11/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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The title of the Bloomberg article, “Broadcasters Fight Microsoft, Google Over Vacant TV Airwaves,” would lead you to believe that, like the characters on TV-sitcom Seinfeld, they are fighting over nothing. We are talking about those empty spaces on the broadcast spectrum between channels (“white spaces”). The issue is whether anyone could use them whenever they wanted, with no government regulation, but also with no guarantees that from moment to moment they would be clear for broadcasting.

As it turns out, promising new technologies are emerging that can turn this nothing into something by doing such things as: 1) “sniffing-out” available frequencies; 2) continually shifting broadcasts among frequencies on the fly as conditions require while staying connected to recipients; and 3) over time, shrinking the space required for each of these broadcasts. So when you play it all out, you end-up with nearly unlimited potential wireless bandwidth flowing throughout our communities and into our homes with no feasible way for government to control its content (a.k.a. our “free speech”). It would be a world with no municipalities to place restrictions on Cable offerings, and no FCC to scare broadcasters out of airing controversial programming by threatening their license renewals, as they have for decades.

Time is of the essence because a government-control “Soup Nazi,” FCC’s Michael Copps, might be named Chairperson in the next administration. It may be true that the battling corporations on both sides might be as selfish, morally indifferent, and callous as the characters on Seinfeld. But, it is guaranteed that eliminating a century of government control over public speech would not be an episode about minutiae.

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