New: Book Report: Wireless Nation

I'm getting some writing done this weekend, finally putting together notes from the Midnight Madness: Back to Basics game. And I'm listening to some music by Dengue Fever. They perform in the style of 1960s Cambodian rock music. OK, that's gimmicky, but it works. And they've updated the songs, some of whose stylings sound cheesy today. Yes, I've been listening to some of the original Cambodian songs--the internet is a wonderful place, full of pirat-- uhm, archived media. But the story behind the music is sadder than anything you'll hear on VH-1 Where are They Now. "Probably died in a Khmer Rouge labor camp," is not how you want anyone's story to end. But singer Ros Serey-Sothea was a big star in Cambodia in the 1960s, which was an unfortunate time to be in Cambodia; her story is sad, and probably ended in a Khmer Rouge labor camp. Luck is important. Timing is important. It's better to be lucky than talented.

Oh, right, my point. The book Wireless Nation is about lucky people.

This book is about how the USA's FCC apportioned spectrum to early USA cellular telephone companies. There weren't always auctions--the FCC wasn't even allowed to run auctions. So it tried giving the spectrum away based on merit. But that was hard. Then it tried a lottery. Things got really weird as tons of little companies joined the lottery.

It's a strange story full of strange personalities. The USA came late to the world of mobile phones. Its mobile phone industry has been slow to develop. Back when I worked on mobile phone software platforms, those platforms weren't for the USA--they were for Europe and Asia, where people actually used mobile phones.

Why is the USA so backwards? Because its phone providers are a gaggle of randomly-chosen mountebacks. This book tells their story.

One interesting fun bit of history: You know that "fact" that using cell phones in automobiles causes car accidents? The AAA was saying that before there were car phones. It wasn't based on research, it was just a concern, a worry. We should pay more attention to abusive husbands and totalitarians taking over government. We know that these problems recur. They were bad for Ros Serey Sothea. They are bad for us today.

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Posted 2008-05-26