Public to get its birthright in wireless spectrum

by Andy Oram

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This USA Today article represents wonderful news, because it shows that Wi-Fi has caught the eyes of the regulators enough to give it cachet over cell phone companies. The decision isn't certain yet, but it looks like pretty much a done deal. Unused channels will be open to all users, providing a resource for successors to Wi-Fi, WiMax, and whatever else comes along

This decision would be particularly significant because it would indicate government's future decision regarding TV broadcast spectrum in general, as broadcast TV (presumably) moves to HDTV. (It's more likely that broadcast TV will just shrivel up gradually through disuse. HDTV isn't proving economically viable, but people will find ways to get Internet video other ways.)

I had always assumed that, as broadcast TV channels became free, Congress and the FCC would just license them off. Cell phone companies haven't made great use of the overpriced licensed spectrum they've gotten so far, but I didn't imagine the public interest would actually trump powerful commercial ventures. The current controversy is a source of hope.