“In March of 2014, the FCC updated its requirements for U-NII devices operating on the 5 Ghz bandwidth — a designation that covers a wide range of Wi-Fi devices and routers,” Kyle Wiens writes for Wired. “It wasn’t until last month that Wi-Fi hobbyists pointed out some regulatory language that might affect the open source community: ‘Manufacturers must implement security features in any digitally modulated devices capable of operating in any of the U-NII bands, so that third parties are not able to reprogram the device to operate outside the parameters for which the device was certified.'”
“On its own, the language isn’t a deliberate war on modding,” Wiens writes. “‘In this particular case, this is about safety,’ said William Lumpkins, Sr. Member IEEE, IEEE Sensors Council/SMC Standards Chair. Most modern equipment—from laptops to planes—emits radio frequencies (RF). And the FCC carefully orchestrates traffic to ensure signals don’t get tangled up… RF modding could also interfere with ‘medical devices like pacemakers, optical implants, diabetic insulin regulators, and a slew of other medical devices,’ Lumpkins said. ‘An insidious person could also turn a radio into a white noise generator and not allow anyone to use Wi-Fi/Bluetooth within a 1500 foot radius, which is what a few well-intentioned theater owners tried last year.'”
“What is unusual, Lumpkins added, is for the FCC to call out—by name—specific software. But that’s exactly what the FCC did,” Wiens writes. “And that’s a big red flag: DD-WRT, like OpenWRT, is a free, Linux-based firmware for wireless routers and access points. The two are widely used within the tinkering community—and they are important… ‘The real worry is that major chip manufacturers will respond by saying ‘the easiest thing for us to do is lock down all the middleware rather than worry about where to draw the line.’ That would potentially kill a lot of innovation and valuable uses,’ wireless policy guru Harold Feld told TechDirt… The FCC is currently asking for feedback on the NPRM before the rules become law—so now is the time to pipe up. ”
Much more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: This seems to be a case of poorly worded guidelines that first need to be cleaned up and rewritten before they become regulations.