Aereo: Why Does TV Makes People Stupid?

Let me begin by saying that Aereo is stupid, which might be why it makes people act stupid. What is Aereo?  Today, it is illegal to stream broadcasted content…unless the content in question is going from a single receiver to a single device.  To work around this stupid law and stream broadcast TV to devices, Aereo has come up with an equally stupid solution – a warehouse in Brooklyn housing thousands of tiny antennas.  When you sign up for an Aereo account, one of those tiny antenna becomes “yours” and it can then stream content to your device, staying within the letter of the law.  This is all so stupid it actually pains me to think that highly skilled engineers are spending their days doing this sort of stupid bullshit.

Aereo has caused its opponents to fight stupid with stupid.  The big networks hate Aereo, because it provides a channel for people to watch broadcast TV (not cable) with time-shifting, thus avoiding ads.  The official broadcast network stance is that Aereo is stealing their content, which, let me repeat, is broadcast over the air for free and thus that Aereo needs to be shut down.  For Freedom.  Lord, this is all so stupid.  Well, Fox and CBS have moved to the taking-hostages step in the negotiation, claiming that they will cease broadcasting if the courts do not kill Aereo.  This is all so goddamn stupid I want to punch a wall.  I think the networks’ declaration is an empty threat, but I don’t think it’s really an important issue in and of itself – broadcast TV is a weird anachronism anyway these days.

However, should the networks follow through with their childish threats, this is an unalloyed opportunity for the American people.  You see, they are allocated frequency on the electromagnetic system according to an auction system which is crooked in all sorts of ways.  The spectrum used by broadcast networks, which could be used for various exciting innovative purposes like the awesomely-named-and-hopefully-actually-awesome “Super Wi-Fi”, is not owned by the networks.  No, this spectrum is owned by the American people.  Spectrum auctions only give broadcast networks usage privileges, and it is well-attested in US law that it confers none of the rights of property.  It is a privilege accorded the holder in exchange for certain public-service agreements, such as broadcasting important public events.

If Fox and CBS really go off the air, we should use the opportunity to confiscate their spectrum and put it to productive use.  The lower-frequency TV spectrum is actually ideal for “Super Wi-Fi”, and I would suggest that as a good thing.  Fox and CBS are holding public property for blackmail in an unrelated legal dispute, and this is an unacceptable business practice for entities invested with the care of our public property.

In short, if we as a country are going to lease public property for business purposes, “use it or lose it” simply has to be a guiding principle.  Also, since I haven’t mentioned it in a few paragraphs: Aereo is stupid.

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