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Assigning Property Rights to Radio Spectrum Users: Why Did FCC License Auctions Take 67 Years?

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  • Hazlett, Thomas W

Abstract

While Leo Herzel (1951) and Ronald Coase (1959) persuasively argued for auctioning licenses issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), not until 1993 did the U.S. Congress grant the FCC authority to assign wireless operating permits via competitive bidding. Why were auctions, with obvious efficiency and equity advantages, so long in coming? Why were comparative hearings in the "public interest" first abandoned as assignment tools in 1981 not for auctions, but for lotteries? And why were radio and TV licenses pointedly excluded from auctions? Four factors--the special interest of regulators in influencing broadcasting content, the limits placed on explicit program regulation by the U.S. Constitution, the recent increase in the relative economic importance of nonbroadcast wireless services, and the agency problem embedded in central planning--are used to explain both the political stability of economically inefficient licensing methods and recent reforms. Copyright 1998 by the University of Chicago.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law & Economics.

Volume (Year): 41 (1998)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)
Pages: 529-75

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:41:y:1998:i:2:p:529-75

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Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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Cited by:
  1. Faulhaber, Gerald R., 2006. "The future of wireless telecommunications: Spectrum as a critical resource," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 256-271, September.
  2. Dalen, H.P. van, 2007. "Pluralism in economics: A public good or a public bad?," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-347616, Tilburg University.
  3. Jongwook Kim & Joseph T. Mahoney, 2002. "Resource-based and property rights perspectives on value creation: the case of oil field unitization," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4-5), pages 225-245.
  4. Thomas W. Hazlett, 2008. "Optimal Abolition of FCC Spectrum Allocation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 103-128, Winter.
  5. Hazlett, Thomas W. & Muñoz, Roberto E., 2009. "Spectrum allocation in Latin America: An economic analysis," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 261-278, November.
  6. Erik Bohlin & Gary Madden & Aaron Morey, 2010. "An Econometric Analysis of 3G Auction Spectrum Valuations," RSCAS Working Papers 2010/55, European University Institute.
  7. Farber, David J. & Faulhaber, Gerald R., 2002. "Spectrum Management: Property Rights, Markets, and The Commons," Working paper 116, Regulation2point0.
  8. Alejandro Diaz-Bautista, 2005. "Regional Cluster Analysis in the Mexican Telecommunications Sector. Impact of Economies of Agglomeration, Clusters and networking in medium-sized Mexican Telecommunication firms," Urban/Regional 0511013, EconWPA.
  9. Theys, Christophe & Notteboom, Theo E. & Pallis, Athanasios A. & De Langen, Peter W., 2010. "The economics behind the awarding of terminals in seaports: Towards a research agenda," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 37-50.
  10. Wellenius, Bjorn & Neto, Isabel, 2005. "The radio spectrum : opportunities and challenges for the developing world," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3742, The World Bank.
  11. Peter Cramton, 2002. "Spectrum Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 01hte, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 16 Jul 2001.

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