The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone

(Yale University Press)

Book Forum
March 15, 2018
12:00PM to 1:00PM EDT
Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute
Featuring the author Thomas W. Hazlett, Hugh H. Macaulay Endowed Chair in Economics, Clemson University; with comments by Ajit Pai, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Popular legend has it that before the Federal Radio Commission was established in 1927, the radio spectrum was in chaos, with broadcasting stations blasting powerful signals to drown out rivals. Tom Hazlett, a distinguished scholar in law and economics and former chief economist at the FCC (the commission’s successor), debunks that idea. Instead, regulators blocked competition at the behest of incumbent interests and, for nearly a century, have suppressed innovation while quashing out-of-the-mainstream viewpoints.
 

Hazlett details how spectrum officials produced a “vast wasteland” that they publicly criticized but privately protected. The story twists and turns, as farsighted visionaries — and the march of science — rose to challenge the old regime. Over decades, reforms to liberate the radio spectrum have generated explosive progress, ushering in the “smartphone revolution,” ubiquitous social media, and the amazing wireless world that is now emerging. Still, Hazlett argues, and current FCC controversies confirm, the battle is not even half won.