Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Alexander Wireless Bill

I was reading this article about "The Alexander Bill" introduced by Senators Ken Salazar (D) and Lamar Alexander (R) to scheduel among other things troop withdrawls in Iraq. the words "Alexander BIll" tickled my memmory and I recalled there was anothe rAlexander Bill way back in 1912 that was also pretty signifigant.
The magazine Modern Electronics published a short editorial trying to calm the roiled waters. At the time legislation effecting broadcasting was new, like laws now trying to regulate the internet. then as now some efforts are well meant and others not. Some are effectual and others not. It's a new arena in each case and examining it may bring some things to light.
On December 11, 1911, Congress frist saw the Alexander Wireless bill. It's purpose was to begin building the legal infastructure to regulate the U.S. radio industry. This bill would later become Radio Act of 1912, and would be signed into law on August 13, 1912 by President Taft. The best article ever written on the subject is here. Congress saw it mostly as an expansion of the Wireless actoof 1910 that largely concernet itself with ship-to-shore communications. Wireless at the tie of the titanics sinking was considered a safty feature. I did try to figure out which Alexander it was named for and the best I can find is that there was only one "Alexander" serving in Congress when the bill was drafted in 1909, Clay Alexander (D) of Georgia. No proof it's him but for the name. It may or may not be him, but it was introduced first in the Senate...
But the Alexander Bill for all it's infighting was still a was a weaker text. It contained no provisions for amateur wireless. amandments had to be added to regulate this class of station. What is most interesting about the near-omission is that previosu bills nearly banned it. Both in 1908 the so-called the "Roberts Bill" and again in 1910 the 'The Burke Bill" whoudl have extinguised ameteur wireless. Instead a single amendment tothe Alexander Bill vested the hams of the future. It's text follows:
No private or commercial station not engaged in the transaction of bonafide commercial business by radio communication or in experimentation in connection with the development and manufacture of radio apparatus for commercial purposes at the date of passage of this Act, shall use a transmitting wave length exceeding two hundred meters, or a transformer input exceeding one kilowatt, except by special authority of the Secretary of Commerce and Labor contained in the license of that station. The original NY times article here.
Note in 1916 Josephus Daniels, then Secretary of the Navy attempted to use antoher bill called "the Alexander BIll" to totally federalize broadcasting the the U.S. He lost . He attempted again during WWI under the auspices of "wartime control." Try not to confuse the two in your reading...