On today’s episode, Silicon Flatirons senior fellow Pierre De Vries joins student attorney Andrew Manley for a conversation about spectrum management, how usage of spectrum can be improved, and the value of interdisciplinary education.
Music of the show is provided by Gino and the Goons:
Opening theme: Troubles
Sign off music: On My Way
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.
[Editor’s note: we’re starting to experiment with transcripts for accessibility, searchability, and other reasons—but obviously have a ways to go. Please give us feedback on ways to improve the presentation!]
Andrew: Hey, folks. Andrew Manley back again with another episode of the Samuelson-Glushko Tech Law & Policy Clinic Podcast. For today’s episode, I spoke with Pierre de Vries, a senior fellow here at CU’s own Silicon Flatirons Center. Our conversation today revolves mainly around how we use and manage radio spectrum, focusing on the different schools of thought when it comes to spectrum management, and how we can manage it better as times change and technology advances. As I think you’ll hear in the interview, Pierre is a multi-disciplined specialist and he’s really good at being able to thoughtfully and clearly explain hard engineering concepts in ways that they’re digestible for us non-engineers. The interview is a little longer than some of our others, but I’m really glad Pierre took the time, because there’s a lot of good stuff in there. Thanks so much for tuning in. Enjoy the show.
Pierre, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. To get started, how did you come to be involved with the Silicon Flatirons Center?
Pierre: It’s quite a strange story. I didn’t realize until quite recently, in fact, how the connection happened, because I just got a call out of the blue one day from Phil Weiser. But quite recently, I was chatting to Brad Bernthal, Professor Bernthal, and I learned that it was because of a paper I gave at a conference in Dublin in 2007. It was a paper about metaphors in spectrum policy and the fact that people who do spectrum policy seem to be fixated on [00:02:00] the metaphor that spectrum is like real estate; that there are, in fact, other ways to think about spectrum than just real estate; and that thinking about real estate is not necessarily always a good idea. It turns out that Brad enjoyed the talk. Actually, I met him there. We chatted afterwards, and I enjoyed talking to him, and he must have spoken to Prof. Weiser. One thing led to another, and so I’ve been associated with Flatirons for going on ten years now.
Andrew: So, you mentioned that there is this idea that spectrum is, like…it’s a metaphor for property rights, or that you could regulate it as analogous to property rights. What are the problems with taking that approach? Why is that ineffective?
Pierre: Every metaphor has strengths and weaknesses, because a metaphor is just a model. It says, “This thing is mostly like this other thing.” The problem with the “spectrum is real estate” metaphor is it makes a bunch of assumptions—for example, that spectrum is a thing, like a piece of land. And it leads to what I believe are really futile and fruitless arguments about this “resource,” which we now assume spectrum is. How do we manage it? How do we parcel it out? And the kind of arguments you get into is, Well, if spectrum is like land, should we treat it like a common