Thomas Hazlett discusses radio frequency regulation with students

The economics program at Baylor welcomed Thomas Hazlett as a speaker for the Free Enterprise Forum on Thursday. The forum was centered around his latest book, "Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone." Photo courtesy of Thomas Hazlett

By Greta Gould | Reporter

The Baylor University Hankamer School of Business welcomed professor Thomas Hazlett as a speaker for the Free Enterprise Forum 4 p.m. on Thursday in Paul L. Foster’s McClinton Auditorium. Hazlett spoke about ideas from his most recent book, Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone.

Dr. Daniel Bennett, the professor who introduced Hazlett, serves as a research professor in the Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center program at Baylor University.

The forum is sponsored by the economics program at Baylor University, as well as the Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center whose mission is “to aid in the preservation of the confederate free enterprise system, and their goal is to be a national leader in this area through research, teaching, and public policy outreach,” Dr. Bennett said.

According to the Hankamer School of Business website, “the speaker series features academically, renowned guests speaking on a wide-range of topics varying from free enterprise and regulation to innovation and poverty.”

Professor Thomas Hazlett holds the H.H. Macaulay Endowed Chair in Economics at Clemson University where he conducts research in the field of law and economics. His research has been featured in publications such as The Journal of Law & Economics, The Yale Journal on Regulation, The Columbia Law Review, Harvard Journal on Law & Technology and many more, his website said.

Hazlett has served as Chief Economist of the Federal Communications Commission taught at the University of California, Davis, Columbia University, the Wharton School, and George Mason University School of Law, his website said.

Hazlett talked about the engineering behind cell phones and the importance of them being not just technology but “sophistication and advancement in terms of the rules, the economics, the law that has been applied to the space.”

He also talked about the history of radio frequency and the minds that went into making them. He explained the regulatory laws that were put into place during Herbert Hoover’s presidency.

“The Radio Act is the law we have today. It governs the radio waves. It preempts private property rights to radio frequency, the government will decide how radio frequency is used, not private owners, no vested rights in channels,” Hazlett said. “Radio spectrum allocation, radio waves go to one thing and not another, we decide the technologies, business models and services, and we will use a public interest, convenience or necessity standard.”

Hazlett’s view on regulation is that we are in “need for continued deregulation of wireless technologies to promote innovation and enable technologies of freedom in the Smartphone Revolution.”

He backs up this idea by telling the story of FM radio being created by Edward Howard Armstrong. Armstrong proposed the idea for FM radio, but he was turned away by the Federal Communication Commission for being on a bad band due to solar flares, Hazlett said.

“He is a metaphor for the top-down system where we have, in fact, a large graveyard for wireless innovation. Technology, business models, architecture that can’t get in and provide value for consumers, not because it didn’t have backing in the market place, but because it didn’t have permission in the political world,” Hazlett said.