IEA Conversations

How wireless deregulation gave us the iPhone

July 11, 2019

The IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes sat down with Professor Thomas Hazlett.

Professor Thomas Hazlett's research focuses on public choice and public policy aspects of regulatory measures in the communications sector. The focus of his 2017 book: 'The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone' debunks the traditional view as to why the radio spectrum is allocated and licensed by regulators.

Hazlett argues that contrary to popular belief, radio broadcasting actually developed according to common law property rules and the 1927 move to political control was less motivated by a necessity to impose order on a chaotic system than as a result of pressure by incumbent radio stations and key policymakers – like Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover – to foreclose competitive entry.

Hazlett maintains that these developments have inhibited innovation rather than encouraged it. Hazlett's research, of course, has implications for current policy discussions, with issues like 5G and Net Neutrality both areas of debate for present-day communications and regulators. You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.