There’s an ongoing issue in the wifi world where the FCC has proposed some new rules. The rules could effectively prevent using third party firmware in a wireless device. Why? The FCC is finding issues of radio interference along the wifi spectrum where such interference should not be if the interfering device was operating within the boundaries of US law.
In some of these cases, the interference could cause a serious safety issue, something the FCC has power to help prevent. If vendors make it difficult or impossible for users to install third party wireless operating systems, that prevents a third party OS from enabling radio channels or power settings that might be illegal in the US.
I’m not all that interested in expressing a strong opinion about this, as I see both sides of the issue and find this one nuanced and a bit complicated. As a former board member of a small FM radio station, I both respect and appreciate the FCC’s role in managing the airwaves, no matter where in the spectrum the communications fall. That said, I tend to think that any ruling that would prevent the use of third party firmware is a significant loss for both the open source community and consumers.
No matter what my feelings are, I mostly want to raise awareness through this post, as the FCC is still open for comments from the general public on the topic, at least until 9-October-2015. This is the sort of topic that will raise the ire of many. No doubt some will want to exercise their right to share some useful thoughts with the FCC on how to phrase their proposed changes differently.
But first, you should read a bit more. Rich Brown is involved in the wireless world and open source community, and posted a thoughtful commentary here.
For more information on this issue, please read…
- FCC Accused of Locking Down Wi-Fi Routers But The Truth Is A Bit Murkier (ArsTechnica)
- Comment to the FCC re: Consumer Router Firmware (Rich Brown)
- Save WiFi (LibrePlanet)
- Current Federal Register article with the FCC proposal (Federal Register)