geert lovink on Mon, 28 Jul 2003 09:09:02 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Citizen's Guide To The Airwaves

Now Available!
Citizen's Guide To The Airwaves

New America Foundation
July 1, 2003

The Citizen's Guide to the Airwaves is the New America Foundation’s
attempt to educate the public about the tremendous value, government
mismanagement, and impending giveaway of the nation’s airwaves - the most
valuable natural resource of the information economy. The publications
frame the spectrum debate in a language new to the policy world, using
clear, graphic illustrations to depict the economic, social and political
facets of spectrum policy.

The Citizen's Guide (viewable thumbnails below) includes a two-sided, 11” x
38” color poster and a 52-page Explanation Report. The poster’s front side
is a visual “map” of the spectrum; the backside is a nine-panel overview of
the U.S. spectrum policy debate.

Downloadable PDF versions of the Citizen’s Guide poster and report are
available free of charge. Printed versions of the poster are available in
two formats, either accordion-folded for easy reading ($10) or flat for
hanging ($12). Additional copies may be ordered for a reduced price. The
explanatory report, printed and bound on heavy stock, glossy paper,
accompanies the poster at no additional charge.


In the emerging information economy, the most valuable publicly owned
asset may well be the electromagnetic spectrum – or the “airwaves.”
Indeed, recent auctions suggest that the spectrum has a market value
exceeding $500 billion.  Yet our nation’s antiquated spectrum policies
sacrifice significant public revenues and inhibit the rapid deployment
of wireless broadband access.

To promote a more fair and efficient allocation of the airwaves, New
America’s Spectrum Policy Program advocates requiring commercial
licensees to pay fair market value for their use of the spectrum, and
opposes efforts to privatize the airwaves.  The revenues from such
auctions can best be used to meet civic and educational needs.  The
Program also promotes greater shared citizen access to the airwaves –
particularly for wireless broadband networking with unlicensed consumer
devices – and the protection of the Internet’s open and unmediated
end-to-end architecture.  In these and other ways, New America seeks to
help preserve, update, and expand the public interest obligations of
our nation’s communications infrastructure in the digital era.

New America’s Spectrum Policy Program currently has three primary

Spectrum Policy Reform. Our nation’s current spectrum allocation
policies – based on rigid regulation and zero-cost use by most
incumbent license holders – have created the worst possible situation:
an artificial spectrum scarcity that inhibits the rapid deployment of
wireless broadband services, the sacrifice of tens of billions of
dollars in public revenue, reduced innovation and competition,
constrained citizen access to the airwaves, and a steady erosion of the
civic, educational, and other public interest obligations of
broadcasters and other licensees.  To overcome these vexing problems,
New America develops and promotes a range of market-based policies that
ensure that all commercial users compensate the public for their
exclusive and limited-term licenses, while simultaneously opening more
of the spectrum to sharing by individuals using Wi-Fi and other
unlicensed wireless devices.  The Program also puts forth innovative
proposals for earmarking spectrum revenues for new public investments
to fulfill the public interest obligations of broadcasters.  These
unmet needs include free airtime for federal candidates, quality
non-commercial programming, and innovative educational content and

Since its inception in January 2001, New America’s Spectrum Policy
Program has produced four major reports and more than a dozen working
papers and issue briefs; published numerous articles in the mainstream
press; organized over 15 high-profile public events; and published a
major book.  In addition, Program Director Michael Calabrese has
testified frequently on Capitol Hill and before the FCC and the
Commerce Department on a wide range of spectrum-related issues.

A Citizen's Chart of the Spectrum. Spectrum politics is a classic case
of special interest politics. Rights to use spectrum are worth hundreds
of billions of dollars, yet the press, public, and even most lawmakers
have only a vague understanding of how spectrum allocation policy works
and of the full potential of emerging wireless technologies. Nor does
the majority of the public understand the tremendous “opportunity loss”
resulting from the current mismanagement of the airwaves - for
taxpayers and consumers alike. Indeed, the U.S. government’s official
spectrum chart is virtually indecipherable to the average citizen. To
remedy this problem, New America Senior Research Fellow J.H. Snider -
working with a team of leading graphic designers and policy experts -
produced a “Citizen’s Chart of the Spectrum” that graphically
illustrates the most important dimensions of spectrum policy and
allocation. It will be released in May 2003.

Protecting the Information Commons. New America also works to ensure
that the Internet’s architecture and intellectual property laws
continue to protect the public’s interest in free speech, consumer
rights, privacy, and open competitive access.  A critical issue is
whether the public spaces made possible by the Internet will be
re-regulated to maximize the commercial interests of dominant
intellectual property owners – or whether they will protect and expand
the vital “information commons” that enables individual citizens to
freely communicate, create, and control content.  Current attempts to
privatize the nation’s public communications infrastructure and its
content include the removal of common carrier obligations for Internet
access and encroachments upon traditional copyright principles of fair
use. Among the policy initiatives aimed at expanding the information
commons, the Program advocates universal broadband access premised on
common carriage and a choice of Internet service providers.  The
Program also advocates new limits on copyright and trademark law so
that the public domain and creativity may continue to flourish in the
digital future.  In 2002 the Program published a series of reports on
the information commons and a major book – Silent Theft, by David
Bollier – that popularized the fact that the American people are the
rightful owners of a wide range of public assets, and that highlighted
new policies for safeguarding the public’s rights to these assets.

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