Of Rainbows and Rivers: Lessons for Telecommunications Spectrum Policy from Transitions in Property Rights and Commons in Water Law


A number of industries utilize the telecommunications spectrum to provide billions of dollars of services. However, some have noted that technological development and implementation of spectrum applications have not progressed as fast in the United States as in other parts of the world To improve technological development, many have recommended significant changes in United States policy of allocating spectrum, some based on a “property rights” approach, and others based on a “commons” approach. This article takes a novel approach to this problem, by applying lessons from our two hundred year history of water law to spectrum policy. Also, instead of analyzing static characteristics of property systems, this article changes its focus to examine transitions in these systems. Based on a new classification of property, “marketable commons property,” this article presents a solution to the allocation of spectrum: spectrum commons accounts.


Communications Law | Internet Law | Natural Resources Law | Property Law and Real Estate | Water Law

Date of this Version

August 2005