How can you transform the use of radio spectrum from low-value use such as over-the-air television to high-value use such as wireless broadband? A "big bang" response was proposed in the early 2000s. The idea was to use a market in which owners of spectrum could sell their spectrum for new uses by others. But this was plagued with difficulty.
Imagine TV stations as owners of cars in a parking lot. Each wireless company wants to buy a large, contiguous space in the lot. Doing so will create great value. But to succeed, it must buy space from each of a number of stations. And each station will try to seek a huge amount of money for this space! The solution to this "holdout problem" came in a new regulation that gave the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the right to move TV stations to new frequencies. This creates competition. As long as enough stations sell spaces anywhere in the lot then remaining cars can be moved around to create space.
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