Scott Wallsten: “Lightsquared, LTE-U and the revenge of the ‘anti-commons'” (The Hill)

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Many have feared that unlicensed spectrum would suffer from a “tragedy of the commons,” in which the spectrum becomes congested as more users dive in without regard to their effects on other users. Engineers and others have worked hard to prevent that outcome. But what was not anticipated was the “tragedy of the anti-commons,” which is the Bizarro-World version of the more familiar tragedy. Instead of more users piling in, the many and disparate users of an existing technology act as if they hold property rights but are unable to coordinate other than to block new technologies, potentially depriving society of large net benefits. The anti-commons problem is at play in two of today’s big fights, one involving government spectrum and one involving unlicensed spectrum. The first is Lightsquared versus GPS, as Tom Hazlett and Brent Skorup noted in a 2013 paper. The second is LTE-U versus Wi-Fi, which is actually a struggle to avoid commons and anti-commons tragedies. Both disputes appear to be about interference, but that’s only a symptom of a deeper issue.

Read more  at The Hill.