Most of the spectrum of frequency that exists in the US is occupied or owned by large wireless corporations, cable companies, by the government. But at least one small chunk of spectrum — “low-band spectrum” wireless, or TV white spaces (so-called because it is the space between the television dials) — has been somewhat open to the public.
There are thousands of devices on the market that take advantage of this spectrum without paying a license fee, allowing consumers to transmit bits without interference from walls, trees, or radiation from devices like microwaves.
But the Federal Communications Commission is now deciding whether to auction off this spectrum to the highest bidder, putting at risk not only billions of dollars in economic activity, but also very fundamental concepts of affordable public access to information spaces. And on May 15th, just a couple days away from this podcast, the FCC will be holding an open meeting to discuss whether auctioning off this spectrum would be a good idea.