ITEC 102 Digital Information and Society

Bits in the Air Airwaves have been regulated by the government (FRC, FCC) for years First radio transmissions (wireless telegraph) were unregulated and chaotic. Radio was broadcast and not just point-to-point Government needed to regulate to provide clear transmission Hertz (unit 1 cycle/sec) developed first antenna use to replace telegraph Signals overlapped each other. Channels developed to broadcast clear signals regulated (assigned freg. Ranges) and controlled access Based upon scarce national resource FRC became gatekeeper of broadcasters Hampered innovation since existing broadcasters wanted to maintain status quo ITEC 102

Spectrum Deregulation Assigned freqs. Organized by 10KHz bands (high power analog) and guard bands (low power) Digitalization and miniaturization revolutionized comm. World Today radio waves used in billions of devices (key fob, cell phone, Wii, routers, etc.) all relatively low power (.0002 watts to 6 watts) where signals travel short distances Radio is a commons shared by many. The internet is the same Technology exists to use the spectrum much more efficiently (Lamarr, Antheil, Shannon) via smart radio and spectrum hoping Deregulated garbage bands allowed experimentation resulting in innovations leading to wireless networks ITEC 102

Channel capacity Bandwidth and signal power define channel capacity Bandwidth more valuable but it remains largely regulated based upon outdated notions of scarcity Digital signals allow much efficient use of spectrum resulting in near unlimited use but will it be allowed? Television from 13 channels, to hundreds, to millions? The broadcasts (tv and radio) would become more like a library. Signs we are moving there now? Today 20% of internet bandwidth used by streaming videos & growing Results would affect acceptance of gov. regulation to be more like printed media. ITEC 102

How much regulation? If the spectrum is no longer scarce, access could be for everyone and every point of view Free speech on the digital airwaves would be able to be more like it is on the printed page open to everyone. The task becomes how to gain an audience (like the blogs of today) Bits are bits and information access becomes a societal challenge to determine where it should be controlled, allowed, or banned. ITEC 102

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