radio regulation in low-income countries

About the year 2001, 40% of persons in the world lived in countries where there was less than one fixed-line telephone per hundred persons. Good radio regulation can help to foster rapid development of communication capabilities for many persons around the world.

Björn Wellenius and Isabel Neto of the World Bank recently posted a paper, The Radio Spectrum: Opportunities and Challenges for the Developing World. I hope this important topic gets more attention in development economics.

Update: Check out this very impressive website and book on Wireless Networking in the Developing World.

warrantless searches: the banal and the newsworthy

With the aid of high-tech equipment not in general public use, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) monitors radiation emanating from a variety of sities, including homes. In addition, the FCC claims legal authority to enter a home without a search warrant, find a device of concern, and collect information about it (“inspect radio equipment”).

Under such regulation, Benjamin Franklin might have gotten into trouble with the law for messing with spark-gap radiators (Leyden jars) within his home. Perhaps to avoid that danger he might have invented an effective cloaking technology.

Why is government monitoring of radiation associated with illegal home-based radio stations less controversial than government monitoring of radiation associated with a potentially catastrophic “dirty bomb”?

Why is inspection, without a specific warrant, of radio devices within homes less controversial than inspection, without a specific warrent, of suspected communication about terrorists acts?

Perhaps because spy agencies and terrorism provide an exciting framework for grave scholarly discussion and heated political hyperbole. Radio regulation, in contrast, is, well, boring. You don’t even need leaked classified documents to find out about government monitoring of (radio) radiation!

between neuroscience and social psychology

Sense of presence has not been the central focus of much scientific study. The neuroscience of a single body cannot adequately understand sense of presence. Social psychology that does not recognize the biological constraints of separate human bodies cannot either.

Scientific interest in the connection between biological hardware and relations between organisms appears to be growing. Oxford University Press has just announced a new journal entitled Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. This area of research points to better understanding of sense of presence.

regulatory affairs departments

A friend working for an incumbent telco in a country moving to a more competitive environment asked me for thoughts about the organization of regulatory affiars departments. Some thoughts:

The personality of senior management, by natural selection, tends to be competitive. Regulatory affairs departments tend to emphasize regulatory competition to get support from senior management. Regulatory affairs departments can easily form their own objectives that have little relationship to the company’s long-term profitability (in economic jargon, the principal-agent problem). Doing well in regulatory lobbying is not the same as doing well as a company. Winning regulatory battles is not the same as making money.

In countries in which many companies have participated in the telecommunications industry for a number of years, companies’ regulatory affairs departments typically interact extensively with various industry associations and lobbying groups. The organization of a company’s regulatory affairs department should be considered in relation to other extra-company regulatory affairs resources.