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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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David Weinberger recently wrote an article entitled “The Myth of Interference” for Salon—better visit it while it’s still around—in which he claims that the limited radio spectrum is an artifice and that there is no such thing as interference in nature.

It’s an interesting idea and the analogies he cites are compelling, but reliance on analogies can be problematic. I’m not a physicist—far from it—but referring to 770 kHz as “Forest Green” strains belief. If radio spectrum in analgous to colors, how come we can’t see the radio transmissions? I’m familiar with frequencies that are invisible to humans but calling an AM station “Forest Green” implies a color that would be visible to the eye. Further, I thought there was a difference between photons and radio waves, so some of his claims seem odd to me.

Where I do agree with the article is that current technology could be improved and that the FCC is holding things up with its artificial restrictions on spectrum. The problem is that interference is a real possibility with today’s technology and the FCC has allocated such wide swatches of prime spectrum that the spectrum left for innovation is like the Badlands. The innovative new technologies cannot be allowed to use the prime spectrum because of the current ubiquity of the dumb receivers until such time as a switchover can be effected, though the switchover could be technological and not political.