Reviewing FCC Rules on WiFi Use

I wasn’t really paying attention in June when WiFi Net News reported on a FCC decision regarding control of WiFi:

The FCC says landlords, associations can’t regulate Part 15 use: The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology says that the function of regulating and coordinating frequency use is reserved to the FCC itself. It’s a clear refutation of mall owners, airports, and condominium associations to limit use of Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies.

And it’s hard to put their conclusion any better than they themselves:[quote]The rules prohibit homeowner associations, landlords, state and local governments, or any other third parties from placing restrictions that impair a customer antenna user’s ability to install, maintain, or use such customer antennas transmitting and/or receiving commercial nonbroadcast communications signals when the antenna is located “on property within the exclusive use or control” of the user where the user has a “direct or indirect ownership or leasehold interest in the property, except under certain exceptions for safety and historic preservation.”

So this recent report that the Tampa Airport Thinks FCC Rules Don’t Apply was a more interesting news hit than might have been expected. It seems the Tampa airport authorities have retained counsel and are planning some appeal.

There was a recent spat at the University of Texas where they first tried to prohibit WiFi, the spent some time considering the use of private WiFi, then, recognizing the June FCC ruling rescinded the WiFi ban.

This would, of course, have local implications, if anybody tried to test it.

My opinion: this FCC ruling is actually good for consumers. If the FCC left it to landowners, they’d be creating local monopolies that charge high premiums for service. Further, since the ruling effects all unlicensed services, not just WiFi, it could be creating a regulations nightmare where other non-commercial spectrum uses, like FRS, might be banned or limited. Further, the ruling is actually about the use of radio spectrum, unlike recent copyright limitations mandated by the FCC.