Doc Searls ponders the metaphors of spectrum:

My hmm for the day is a bit of wondering about the term “spectrum.” Maybe what we’re talking about here – those qualities the Net takes on when users spill it out of the wires and out into the waves – isn’t spectrum at all. Maybe it’s more like an older noun: Ether.

…Anyway, what if Net’s wires and local ethers – what Bob Frankston perfectly calls “the first mile” – were most constructively conceived as nonmatters of infinite abundance? What then? And why not? Just because we’re accustomed to the conceptual crutchwork of transport and property? Hey, even if we are, why not try on another concept for size?

This is very important. The old metaphors of spectrum and the consequent “spectrum allocations”, bringing with them endless wrangling over what was thus declared a scarce and finite resource, must be reexamined. Modern UWB communications use a very wide swath of “spectrum” in a non-interfering, shareable manner.

At the end, Doc links to an even more interesting article: Dim Copper, by Bob Frankston.

We didn’t create the automobile by lashing a carriage to a mechanical horse but we were able to repurpose the roads designed for horses by paving them to create a smooth surface. The Internet isn’t just an upgrade to the phone network. It needs its own path. The existing copper infrastructure is a valuable resource that can be used as a native medium for Internet connectivity. We must take advantage of the opportunity to provide universal connectivity very quickly at a low cost, we get vastly improved telephony as a free bonus.

…Of course, there are many additional services that provide immediate economic value. These services are currently stymied by the ancient telephony paradigm which is built upon circuits that require exclusive use of a particular pair of copper wires while providing connectivity between only two end points at a time. The Internet shares these resources and connects everything to everything.

Just as we don’t treat the car as a horseless carriage, we should stop thinking of our copper infrastructure as the telephone network. It’s just a dimly lit neighborhood off the Internet waiting for the light to shine.

This is in line with the dumb network paradigm which has been discussed for years. Phone companies, cable networks, even some ISPs – all try to hang onto an obsolete finite-resource, controlled services metaphor, and they’ll suffer for that in the near future. The rising use of Voice over IP will (hopefully) put traditional telcos out of business before the decade is out.

Once everybody accepts that the smart thing is to build dumb networks, using the huge amount of dark fiber already installed, and let the market and the tinkerers discover what they can be used for, the Internet will finally fulfill its promises.