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News Release
April 14, 2004
CONTACT: David Fish
(202) 289-8928

Study Pans Gov’t-Created
Spectrum ‘Commons’

April 15 Panel Examines Future of Wireless Communications

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In the fast-changing world of wireless communications, a current enthusiasm of some big-name legal scholars is the creation by government of a 'commons' through which people transmit on open radio spectrum. But Duke University Law Professor Stuart Benjamin, who is not unenthused about the prospect of umpteen wireless users communicating in self-perpetuating 'abundant networks', thinks private control of spectrum is better. He and a panel of experts debate public versus private spectrum control at an April 15 Congressional Seminar sponsored by The Progress & Freedom Foundation.

"There has been much ferment recently in the world of wireless communications," Benjamin writes in a paper released by the Foundation, "Does Spectrum Abundance Justify Public Control?" Commons advocates "contend that we can now have wireless networks in which each new device also creates new capacity, such that a wireless network can add users without creating interference." Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig and other advocates "contend that a new paradigm is now technologically possible, in which an effectively infinite number of users can communicate without interfering with one another," he writes. In fact, they "argue that these abundant networks will not arise if private parties obtain property rights in spectrum.

"My answer is that the possibility of abundant networks calls into question one aspect of the government's allotment of spectrum - namely, the division of spectrum into small parcels - but it does not cast doubt on the efficiency of private ownership. If spectrum is allotted in large swaths, there is every reason to expect that private owners will create abundant networks (assuming of course, that these networks work as promised)," Benjamin concludes.

Other members of the panel, which meets Thursday, April 15, at 12:00 in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 192, include Randolph J. May, senior fellow and director of communications policy studies at The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Peter Pitsch, director of communications policy at Intel Corp. and Harold Feld, associate director, Media Access Project. Those interested should register online. Questions should be directed to Rebecca Fuller at 202-289-8928 or

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation