In a must-read article for Bloomberg, Larry Downes argues the FCC — despite its good intentions — is getting in the way of freeing much-needed spectrum for wireless:

Speaking the week of May 7 at the annual meeting of the mobile trade group CTIA-The Wireless Association, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had to acknowledge the sad truth that “the overall amount of spectrum available has not changed, except for steps we’re taking to add new spectrum on the market.”

Those “steps,” however, only promise spectrum sometime in the vague future. For now, the two agencies have put almost no new spectrum into actual use. Instead, the agencies have piled up a depressing list of delays, scandals, and wasted opportunities.

Later in the piece, Downes calls for a major overhaul of how spectrum is managed by the government:

Saving the mobile ecosystem—and making way for the next generation of mobile innovation—demands a bold new strategy. For starters, it is time to stage an intervention for federal agencies hoarding spectrum. Private licensees who no longer need the spectrum they have must be able to sell their rights quickly in a working market and be prodded, when necessary, to do so. Buyers need the freedom to repurpose spectrum to new uses.

Also, we need to increase incentives for network operators to continue investing in better and more efficient infrastructure, not throw cold water on them in the name of a vague and largely undefined public interest. The number of competitors isn’t what matters. It’s the ability of consumers to get what they want at prices that, at least up until now, continue to decline.

Downes’ full article is blunt, alarming, and worth reading.