Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi
from the bigger-faster-stronger dept
A ruling (pdf) last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has paved the way for deployment of faster, better Wi-Fi, while simultaneously cementing the FCC’s authority to make important decisions related to spectrum and interference concerns.
Last year, the FCC voted to open up a chunk of spectrum in the 6GHz band for unlicensed use, providing more airwaves to be used by Wi-Fi and other technologies. Wi-Fi is the most immediate beneficiary; this posed the biggest expansion of available spectrum since Wi-Fi was first unveiled back in 1989. The expansion, and the new standards making more efficient use of more spectrum, should result first in better, more reliable Wi-Fi, and ultimately faster speeds of 1?2 Gbps connections over Wi-Fi. That means better broadband, and more innovation in the band:
Big news! Today the DC Circuit unanimously upheld the FCC's decision to free up the 6 GHz band for more unlicensed use. This decision = more Wi-Fi in more places and it matters because it comes at a time when being connected is more important than ever. https://t.co/jjN4G8ALzA
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) December 28, 2021
Granted, large wireless carriers like AT&T didn’t much like this plan. They wanted the FCC to auction off this swath of publicly owned airwaves to them for deployment of their 5G networks. Carriers masked this ambition under interference concerns in a subsequent lawsuit, claiming that Wi-Fi in these bands would interfere with the “tens of thousands of microwave links critical to maintaining network infrastructure.” The FCC and its staff of engineers (and a bipartisan array of commissioners) disagreed, and found that opening this spectrum to unlicensed use served both innovation and the public interest.
Now, the court has reiterated that the FCC has the expertise and authority to make these kinds of decisions. That had long been understood, but there’s been a concerted effort to reduce the FCC’s authority on countless fronts over the last decade. First, you watched as the broadband industry effectively gutted much of the agency’s consumer protection authority with the net neutrality repeal. We also watched a heavily-lobbied Congress gut the FCC’s broadband privacy authority with a partisan vote. More recently, everybody from the wireless industry to the FAA has been trying to malign the FCC’s engineering authority (see: the FAA’s weird attempt to limit 5G deployments based on shaky interference and safety claims).
The court basically made it clear the FCC has the expertise and authority to make major decisions in this space — provided it clearly explains why with real-world data (something it often didn’t do during the Trump era).
Today?s decision in AT&T Services has broader consequences for noting spectrum battles. 1. It reaffirms the @FCC gets deference on its technical judgments and which studies/methodologies it prefers. *As long as it explains why.* But failure to explain why results in remand. /1
— (((haroldfeld))) (@haroldfeld) December 28, 2021
It’s one of those weird and rare instances where a bipartisan coalition of FCC officials all align to do the right thing, despite heavy meddling from giant wireless carriers like AT&T, ever eager for policies more favorable to their bottom lines. The coalition of companies excited to develop innovative products making use of the additional spectrum are understandably happy about the ruling, as are consumers and tinkerers looking forward to better, faster Wi-Fi — and the policy wonks happy to see the FCC’s authority to do its job cemented by the courts.