[opendtv] Re: Digital Trends: ESPN may pull its finger out of the Internet-TV dam, unleash a flood of change

  • From: Mark Schubin <tvmark@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2014 08:32:31 -0500

On 2/5/2014 7:12 AM, Craig Birkmaier wrote:
The Federal Radio Commission was formed in 1926,

which is one of the reasons I mentioned that the decision to treat broadcasting 
as a regulated monopoly (actually an oligopoly) followed on the decision to 
regulate electric power as a natural monopoly.
I don't follow your reasoning. Most radio broadcasting at the time was by independent stations, not monopolies. While RCA and AT&T wanted radio to be a monopoly, the government did not assist them in that cause, even though the government had created RCA in the first place.

In any case, government regulation of radio transmissions began much earlier than the FRC. Consider, for example, the Radio Act of 1912, which explicitly authorized the Department of Commerce to determine spectrum allocations. Even before that, there was the Wireless Ship Act of 1910, which also inserted the government into radio regulation.

As for the electric power industry, that's not my field, so I can't say when it began to be regulated, but I HAVE researched one little tidbit of it, which shows that there was not a common electric-power industry in 1903. That's when Dr. Percy Brown became head of what we would today call the radiology (and was then called the roentgenology) department at the Children's Hospital in Boston.

The X-ray machine required electric power, but there was no power company to provide it, and the hospital was gas lit at the time. A nearby opera house had electric lighting and their own generators to power the lamps. So the hospital ran a line to the opera house for power. But the opera-house generators ran only when the opera house needed them. So, in Brown's words, "No opera, no X-rays!"

Here's my Library of Congress blog post on the subject (later picked up by Smithsonian): http://blogs.loc.gov/inside_adams/2013/08/no-opera-no-x-rays/

So, do you think that between 1903 and 1910 an electric-power industry was created, was regulated as a monopoly, and became a model for U.S. government regulation of wireless transmissions? The same government that had already been regulating communications since its establishment of postal service? The same government that DECLINED to establish a monopoly on radio?

I don't.


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