The myth of interference

But ultimately Reed isn’t in this because he wants us to have better TVs or networked digital cameras. “Bad science is being used to make the oligarchic concentration of communications seem like a fact of the landscape.” Opening the spectrum to all citizens would, according to him, be an epochal step in replacing the “not” with an “and” in Richard Stallman’s famous phrase: “Free as in ‘free speech,’ not free as in ‘free beer.’ Says Reed: “We’ve gotten used to parceling out bits and talking about ‘bandwidth.’ Opening the spectrum would change all that.”

But surely there must be some limit. “Actually, there isn’t. Information isn’t like a physical thing that has to have an outer limit even if we don’t yet know what that limit is. Besides advances in compression, there’s some astounding research that suggests that the informational capacity of systems can actually increase with the number of users.” Reed is referring to work by researchers in the radio networking field, such as Tim Shepard and Greg Wornell of MIT, David Tse of UC-Berkeley, Jerry Foschini of Bell Labs, and many others, as well as work being carried out at MIT’s Media Lab. If this research fulfills its promise, it’s just one more way in which the metaphor of spectrum-as-resource fails and misdirects policy.

“The best science is often counterintuitive,” says Reed. “And bad science always leads to bad policy.”

Ironically, in selecting “colour” Reed has resonated with a situation where the State gave a limited colour monopoly, on Pantone 2685C, to Cadbury.

Further it was to prevent “interference” AKA “confusion of signal” by consumers (AKA receivers), etc. etc.

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