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.

communication: three business visions

In Sense in Communications, I distinguished among three models of communication: information transfer, story-telling, and presence. These models of communication directly relate to business visions. Information transfer is central to Google’s mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Story-telling is at the heart of the television and film entertainment business. Presence has been an implicit aspect of some successful telephone company promotions, e.g. “reach out and touch someone,” “the friends and family plan.” Communications companies lacking vision might benefit from thinking more about communication.

advertising and information

Back in 2001, I documented that the share of advertising spending in total economic output (GDP) and real advertising spending per person-hour of media use has been roughly constant since 1925. The development of new sensuous forms of media, such as radio and television, did not change the macroeconomics of advertising.

Google (GOOG) has acquired a market capitalization about $125 billion using text-based advertising. Google has created value in advertising not through media innovation but by making advertising much more information-intensive.

Perhaps such a change in advertising will make possible sustained growth in the share of advertising spending in GDP.

What's The Frequency, Kenneth?

I applaud important new research from MIT on the frequency attenuation properties of aluminum foil deflector beanie helmets (AFDBHs). This research concludes:

It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings.

The research indicates that AFDBHs disturb radio frequency waves. Nonetheless, the FCC has never regulated the use of AFDBHs. Thus the FCC is probably not responsible for the rapid growth in the use of this radio device.