Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Receiver protection limits: Two Analogies

I argued in Receiver protection limits that there are better ways to manage poor receivers causing cross-channel interference problems than specifying receiver standards. Here are two analogies to sharpen one’s intuition for the most appropriate way to handle such situations.

Cities increase the salinity of rivers running through them, affecting downstream agriculture. However, the choices that farmers make determine the degree of harm; some crops are much more salt-tolerant than others. In order to ensure that farms bear their part of the burden, regulators have a choice: they can either regulate which crops may be grown downstream, or they can specify a ceiling on the salinity of the water leaving the city limits, leaving it up to farmers to decide whether to plant salt-tolerant crops, perform desalination, or move their business elsewhere. Limits on salinity protection are a less interventionist solution, and don’t require regulators to have a deep understanding of the interaction between salinity, crops and local geography.

Sound pollution is another analogy to radio operation. Let’s imagine that the state has an interest in the noise levels inside houses near a freeway. It can either provide detailed regulations prescribing building set-backs and comprehensive specifications on how houses should be sound-proofed, or it could ensure that the noise level at the freeway-residential boundary won’t exceed a certain limit, leaving it up to home-owners to decide where and how to build. Again, noise ceilings are a simple and generic regulatory approach that does not limit the freedom of citizens to live as they choose, and that does not require the regulator to keep pace with ever-evolving technologies to sound-proof buildings.

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