10 Fake Scarcities

Mobile Data
Data traffic is actually slowing as consumers seek out free Wi-Fi as an alternative to data caps or higher fees charged by wireless companies. E+/Getty Images

No, "spectrum" is not a reference to the legendary Philadelphia arena that was once home to the Flyers and 76ers and host to superstars like Bruce Springsteen and Genesis. These days, the term is most commonly used to describe the radio frequency over which people access the Internet wirelessly. As our voracious appetite for data continues to increase, some say it is wearing on the limited amount of spectrum available, creating a supposed "scarcity" [source: Reardon].

The CTIA-Wireless Association and some government officials have been sounding the alarm for quite some time now. Wireless traffic jumped by 104 percent from June 2011 to June 2012, according to the industry group, which says additional spectrum will be necessary to feed the beast that is our burning desire to get football scores, check the weather and post photos to Instagram, all on the go [source: Farrar].

Yet others claim that data traffic growth is actually slowing. Substantially. In the first six months of 2012, wireless data traffic rose by only 21 percent, probably due to the data caps imposed by some major telecom carriers, which has sent consumers searching for Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, watchdogs point out that only about one-third of the spectrum available in the U.S. is currently being used [sources: Farrar, Reardon].

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