Why High Tech Forum Exists: Illustrated in One Blog Post

This post is a combination of the granular and the existential – with this specific blog posting, arguing against unrestricted auction in low-frequency spectrum – offering a perfect illustration of why High Tech Forum was launched in 2010, and why in 2014 we will seek new ways to help close knowledge gaps. We don’t mean to pick on Timothy Lee, or even this particular post.  It’s only the latest example of how insufficient understanding of technological issues can infect policy debates.  Richard’s remarks in the comment section say it best:

I think we have to ask why T-M and Sprint have refrained from buying spectrum rights at auction since the beginning of time, contenting themselves to networks built with beauty contest spectrum and leased educational spectrum (in the case of Sprint/Clearwire) until now. Then we have to ask whether they intend to do anything with this spectrum, really, or they simply want to buy it to create congestion on the wildly successful AT&T and Verizon networks in order to drive customers in their direction out of frustration. The figures I’ve seen suggest that Sprint already has more spectrum than they know what to do with already, since the Clearwire holdings are so vast. They’re also whining about special access since they haven’t invested adequately in backhaul; even TM runs rings around them in that department. The FCC already has a market-by-market spectrum screen to prevent over-concentration, so placing restrictions on the auction is redundant in any case

Tim seems to accept the argument that one needs low-band (such as 600 mhz) to effectively compete, when Sprint, for example, touts to Wall Street its superfast LTE network build that uses 2.5 GHz spectrum and 8×8 MIMO technology that you can’t even practically do at 600/700 Mhz. As Peter Rysavy explains, MIMO and advanced LTE uses high-band spectrum. The future of wireless is not necessarily in low-band.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  Though tech/telecom policy doesn’t precisely hew to the traditional left-right ideological spectrum, ideological sympathy does come into play.  It sometimes reflexively opposes certain entities.  It assumes “smaller” must equal “victimized.”  (And, somewhat tangentially, it hunts for victims where none are).  Policy in this space must reflect reality, or it is the consumer who will be victimized.  As technology evolves, the assumptions we make that affect policy need to come along as well. In the coming months, the High Tech Forum team will launch several initiatives to build on what we’ve accomplished at High Tech Forum, initiatives that will help close holes in the fundamental understanding of the technologies upon which policymaking occurs.

As they say, watch this space.