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FCC: Only We Can Regulate Unlicensed Spectrum 259

Posted by timothy
from the trump-card dept.
rfc1394 writes "In an article in ComputerWeekly, it was announced that the FCC has ruled that it has final jurisdiction over unlicensed wireless space, meaning that an airport authority can't force airlines to (pay to) use its wireless network and they may set up and use their own. This bodes well for the development of wireless networks in various areas as it means that you have the right to set up your own network even if your landlord would want you to use theirs."
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FCC: Only We Can Regulate Unlicensed Spectrum

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:06PM (#9556929)
    For those of you outside of Massachusetts reading here...

    "Massport"... sounds like it's a business or something, but it's just a trendy name for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which is just a branch of the state government trying to sound a little more important than they really are.
    • by doofusdog (748136) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:10PM (#9556950)
      Around here Masport is a brand of lawnmower and wood burning solid fuel heater
    • You know, I always hear about the Port Authority (mostly of New York, but now of MA). What exactly do they do? Jump on every boat that comes into harbor and obtain duty taxes?
      • PANYNJ runs 4 airports in the NYC area (LaGuardia, JFK, Newark, and Teterboro, a smaller airport near Giants stadium that execs. and sports teams use), and their associated monorail/light rail systems. They run the Hudson crossings (GWB, Lincoln, Holland, to/from NYC; Bayonne, Outerbridge and Goethals to/from Staten Island). They also run the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) subway between Newark, Hoboken, Jersey City, and NYC. Finally, they run Port Newark, Port Elizabeth, Howland Hook terminal on State
    • What about the courts that just ruled against the new FCC rules? If the FCC is the only one who has final authority to regulate the spectrum, then doesn't the court's ruling become moot? I wonder what they would have to say about that...
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:09PM (#9556946)
    This makes it clear... anybody has the right to operate a WiFi device within the FCC-set limits, and if it bothers your WiFi device then well tough. It's unlicensed, but not unregulated.
    • It's the public's. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by twitter (104583) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:32PM (#9557080) Homepage Journal
      The public owns the airwave, and the FCC just happens to embody the public interest right now. They can be done away with by a vote. In this case, I'm glad they stepped up to the plate and squashed the takeover attempt.

      I'm going to go dance in the street.

      • The FCC does not embody the public interest. They have been screwing up telecommunications for decades now. There is no vote that I can cast to do away with them. I can't chose who serves for the FCC. They are un-fucking-constitutional.
        • by mwood (25379)
          *sigh* FCC's job *is* to embody the public interest in our common use of limited communication resources. If they're doing it wrong then we should instruct our representatives to tell them how to do it right.

          You can certainly vote against whoever appoints the incumbents at FCC and, if enough people agree with you, get a replacement who will put in people you'd approve. Go right ahead and do it. Talk to the candidates and make sure they understand what you want and why you think it would be good for the
      • Not so Fast (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Exousia (662698) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:35PM (#9557360)
        I wouldn't get too excited. The FCC has authority derived from the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Technically they have no authority to govern intrastate radio emissions. This has had little challenge in the federal courts up to now, because nobody gave a crap. There was no significant money to be made or lost one way or the other. However, this situation is different. There is significant money at stake. Look for challenges to FCC jurisdiction to spring up. Who knows, maybe a case will make it to the Supreme Court and put the FCC in their place with regards to this issue and similar issues.
        • The FCC has authority derived from the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

          And isn't an airport something that's used in Interstate Commerce???

          Technically they have no authority to govern intrastate radio emissions.

          One question - just WTF is the difference between intertstate and intrastate radio emissions??

          Use of the Radio spectrum is covered by international agreements - which pretty much guarantees that this is a Federal not state matter.

          • Re:Not so Fast (Score:4, Informative)

            by Lehk228 (705449) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @01:06AM (#9557893) Journal
            well technically a microscopic portion of every transmission will cross a state line unless directed straight up, if they can grab drugs and fam products because "it could be shipped over state lines" then they could definitely use a technically present but non-detectable amount of EM transmission to keep control of all transmissions
          • Re:Not so Fast (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mwood (25379)
            The difference between interstate and intrastate radio emissions is whether your receiver is on the same side of the border as his transmitter. Since electromagnetic fields don't observe political boundaries, I can't think of any other meaningful distinction.
        • Re:Not so Fast (Score:3, Informative)

          by rfc1394 (155777)

          I wouldn't get too excited. The FCC has authority derived from the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Technically they have no authority to govern intrastate radio emissions.

          In U.S. v. Southwestern Cable Co [findlaw.com]., 392 U.S. 157 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the FCC has jurisdiction over an intrastate cable television company carrying signals exclusively in California between Los Angeles and San Diego. It may be arguable that since the usage of radio frequencies is regulated by treaty

        • Re:Not so Fast (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Phil Karn (14620)
          Wrong. It is well established law that the US federal government, through the FCC, pre-empts all state and local regulation of the airwaves. It doesn't matter if a particular radio signal doesn't cross state borders; it still falls under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

          So far this has actually been a Good Thing, as FCC pre-emption generally works to block local restrictions on radio communications that are almost always unnecessary, heavy-handed, misguided or in outright bad faith. Just ask any ham radio o

  • Abolish the FCC? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:09PM (#9556947)
    Why abolish the FCC? They stick up for the little guys, too.
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:11PM (#9556960)
    I remember being outraged at the petty officialdom thinking that they somehow had exclusive control of the radiowaves around their airport. This is indeed a *Good Thing* and should serve as a reminder to other local fifedoms.

    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:20PM (#9557014)
      By extention, this basically says that users are allowed to operate any Part 15 compliant devices anywhere they're allowed to physically possess them... and anybody who wants to resolve conflicts in a high-traffic area must go through the FCC if they want anything more binding than handshakes.

      When the FCC gives bandwidth space to the people, it belongs to the people.
      • by dekashizl (663505) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:11PM (#9557254) Journal
        Just wait for the DMCA-related exceptions to start rolling in, late 2005. Once **AA realizes people are setting up unregulated spontaneous exchanges of data, they start trying to find ways to restrict it. Of course, you can always help keep them at bay by supporting the EFF [eff.org]...
        • That's a good point. With the potential overlap of private/semi-private Wifi nodes, how would the RIAA be able to determine the who, what and where of illegal filesharing? The monitoring costs are going to be boosted by another order of magnitude, at least, and right now they can't even accurately identify who's doing what on the public networks, even with what they're paying outside companies to do.

          I may be talking out of my ass, but it makes sense to me that massively cheap and widespread Wifi is goin
      • You make an excellent point.

        Here's a question point: If I have an FCC-approved wireless networking device (say, a cellphone), and I take it to work, can my employer prohibit me from using it?

        I'll bet you anything the answer is "yes" if my employer's the NSA. :)

        • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:51PM (#9557431)
          That's where the "allowed to physically possess" part comes in. Your employer can ban all such devices from the premises on the grounds of security. However, they can't tell Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, and company not to paint their workplace with signal, and they can't put up jamming devices to block signals either.
          • by quantum bit (225091) on Monday June 28, 2004 @11:02PM (#9557487) Journal
            However, they can't tell Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, and company not to paint their workplace with signal, and they can't put up jamming devices to block signals either.

            Not active jamming devices, but I doubt that anyone in their right mind would prosecute someone for building a structure with metal walls. One that just happens to be a Faraday cage and blocks all or most radio signals.
            • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday June 28, 2004 @11:09PM (#9557518)
              A full Faraday cage building would most likely be illegal due to lack of windows and doors...
              • You can get transparent metal meshes [twpinc.com] for the windows ... your microwave has a course version of this that lets high-frequency light through, but not lower-frequency microwaves. Microwaves have doors, too, although forcing your workers inside would probably be illegal for other reasons...
              • Electrically conductive glass and wire screen goes an awful long way. What you don't cover by those means can be handled by building a small foyer around each door, such that either the inner or outer door is closed at all times (like an airlock).

                Turning a building into a Faraday cage isn't that difficult of a proposition. It requires some money and a little construction, but beyond that it's straightforward.
            • building a structure with metal walls.

              The building that I own, live in, and run my business in was originally built in 1946. It's built like a blockhouse -- 16" concrete walls, small windows with steel bars behind them, and so on. Cellphones don't work worth a damn in here. That doesn't hurt my feelings at all because my business is a movie theatre.

              On the negative side, AM and FM radio signals aren't worth listening to here either, so to get around this I have a car radio with an outdoor antenna set
        • yes they can prohibit you from using it, but they cannot make customers who come in (not employed by company) use their pay phones rather than cell phones
    • Well, if they can see how it causes harm and problems for a small institution to regulate the airwaves on a small basis, then why can't they see how it causes harm and problem when a large institution regulates airwaves on a large basis?
    • I'm with the FCC on this. Think about it.. Wireless networking isn't the only thing that users of the common space use. Imagine if cell phone and pager use were also prohibited so you had to use the pay phones. How would you be reached? The person to person wireless network that is not monopolized is a good thing. Just like getting bumped off a cell connection happens, it's better than prohibiting cell phones so the monopoly landlord won't experience the stress of some interferance once in a while.
    • by femto (459605) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:39PM (#9557111) Homepage
      That's a 20th centrury view of the world. In today's world, your quote should read
      all your codes are belong to us

      Freqency division multiplexing (ie. dividing the spectrum into frequency bands) is the old way of doing things. In the 21st century, radio transmission will be done using spatial, frequency and temporal coding (and maybe others).

      Using only frequency division multiplexing is like living in a one dimensional world, not realising that the world has at least three dimensions which you can move around in. Correspondingly, in a multidimensional world, it is possible to avoid collisions that would otherwise occur in a one dimensional world. In other words, combining spatial, temporal and frequency coding allows many more users to use the electromagnetic spectrum.

      A consequence of such a move is that it is no longer possible to just talk about radio frequencies. It become a more generalised mish-mash involving frequency, time of transmission and location of transmission. Any of these can be used to differentiate a user. A 'code' is a generalised multidimensional version of a frequency.

      Welcome flatlanders, to the multidimensional world.

  • Colleges (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:14PM (#9556979)
    Does this mean colleges can't prevent their students from setting up their own wireless networks?
    • Re:Colleges (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:28PM (#9557054) Journal
      Does this mean colleges can't prevent their students from setting up their own wireless networks?

      Yes.

      Just as the FCC, some years ago, also banned cities and counties from using zoning laws to ban satellite dishes and other legal radio antennas.
      • Could a dorm ban the actual equipment, ie, the access point from being in the dorm -- like banning pets such as dogs or cats?
        • Yea, they can basically write anything they want into that housing contract. When they stick you on resnet, they can do whatever they want with that too.

          Think of it this way. When you move into the dorm, you are signing some housing contract (that you never read) but you supposedly read it. In it probably has something about:
          -you can't cook in your room
          -you can't smoke in the room
          -you can't make excessively loud noises at ungodly hours
          -you can't walk around naked after a shower
          -you can't slap a wireless
        • probably not, since dishes are actual equipment as well, but if you hook that up to resnet you can be cut off from resnet, just set up a dorm mesh for mass filesharing.
    • Re:Colleges (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They don't seem to care about the FCC here at Georgia Tech:

      Wireless Network Usage Policy [gatech.edu]

      This has been officially in place for almost a year now I think.
      • Re:Colleges (Score:3, Insightful)

        by foxtrot (14140)
        There's a huge difference between "You can set up your own network" and "You can set up your own crap on our network."

        You can set up WAPs all you want. You just can't plug 'em into their hardware. If Bellsloth'll run you DSL to the dorms, plug it into that and have at... The ruling doesn't say they have to allow you to plug into their network. It says they can't tell you you can't have your own WAPs hooked into your own network.

        -JDF
    • Re:Colleges (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yebyen (59663) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:33PM (#9557084) Homepage
      That is correct. This means that colleges cannot prevent students from setting up their own wireless networks. It doesn't have anything to say about whether students are allowed to connect said wireless network to the college network. Most colleges (any that care whether you set up a wireless network) should have something in their AUP which outlines what you are and are not allowed to plug into their network jacks. If they say "You can only plug individual computers into our network," and you plug in a wireless router, they have every right to suspend your network access privileges.
      • The distinction between "individual computer" and "wireless router" could get a little blurry, considering any computer with a wireless card could potentially rebroadcast access to other machines. So do we ban wireless cards from campus? But it's integrated in laptops and coming to standard motherboards soon.

        If you're running a secure wireless network where you need a passkey to access it, how is the college going to know you're linked to their primary network unless they either obtain or crack your key an
      • Re:Colleges (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mwood (25379)
        The logical difficulty stems from trying to treat "what you agreed to" as if it were "what makes sense". We frequently accept restrictions on our behavior which are poorly-thought-out, or at least poorly-worded. Then we discover the problem, but it's too late to avoid it because we agreed to it. Our only recourse at that point is to renegotiate something more sensible.
    • Re:Colleges (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Niten (201835)

      I'd guess that depends on whether your wireless network would be attached to the school's network. If yes, then it should still be well within the school's rights to include a clause in their network's acceptable use policy prohibiting the creation of any unauthorized wireless access points on their network. If no, on the other hand, this decision may provide a useful precedent.

      • If you're on the school's property they still have the right to say no private wifi signals. I know RIT has done this, except they say it's because they need clear airwaves while they test the network they're setting up.

        Either way, the campus can have final say.

        Ultimately though, who the hell gave the damn FCC all this power. Gah!
        • Re:Colleges (Score:3, Informative)

          by Mr. X (17716)
          Actually this decision says colleges CAN'T say no private wifi signals.
          • OH, I can read. Really. :-/

            Even stranger then really. A private organization (like a private school, or even a controlling body at a public school) should have say over activities happening on campus. They've even got rules at some schools about no businesses out of dorm rooms, they'll find ways to continue to regulate wifi and other things as well.

            This is going to be interesting for the FCC to enforce though with lots of little guys wanting to do their own thing.
            • Re:Colleges (Score:4, Interesting)

              by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@neverb o x . com> on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:32PM (#9557349) Homepage
              They'll just ban the equipment.

              At which point people will set up Linux boxes with wifi cards in them, and run them as APs. I'd like to them try to regulate the physical difference between that and a box with a wifi card that's getting on their network. If they're banning all wireless and just selectively enforcing it if you're not on their network, ask them why they're operating a wireless network if no one is allowed to be on it.

              And, of course, nothing says the wireless routers have to be on their property, especially when you're talking about Georgia Tech, a college that does not have 'campus' per se, it's intermingled with the city. If they try to ban wireless access points, people will just set them up inside coffeehouses across the street from the dorm.

              A very important question to ask them, in front of witnesses, is if they're trying to ban the equipment, student run networks, or just wireless broadcasting. And after they answer 'C', be sure to explain what 'unregulated' means. Watch them backpeddle.

    • Does this mean colleges can't prevent their students from setting up their own wireless networks?

      I think by extension the same theory applies, and that the students can setup their own systems if they wish.

      However...

      IMNSHO, the commission essentially blew it, big time, with this rule makeing. Now there will be huge amounts of interference from so many radios all running in the 802.11 bands. The users are essentially being told to suck it up and tolerate it. But at airports in particular, national s
      • >(and thats piss poor management, security stuff should be hard wired, end of discussion)

        Security stuff should be encrypted, end of discussion. What makes you think a clever individual couldn't eavesdrop a wired pipe? The fact that it is wired gives too many people a false sense of security.

      • Re:Colleges (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mindstrm (20013)
        What???

        This is for unlicensed bands. If you need spectrum upon which NATIONAL SECURITY rests, you use LICENSED spectrum, where it is a FELONY to use without permission. Duh. Airlines DO use licensed spectrum... and unlicensed.

        THe issue here is an airport using commonly used unlicensed equipment and insising that the airlines that use it are NOT ALLOWED to use similar equipment on their own, but instead must use the airport's and pay the airport for that use..

        • I realize that is the issue just fine. But the commishes ruling throws any chance of an early adoption of inter-company co-ordination on spectrum usage out the window. Methinks the window should have been closed, so that the sound of breaking glass might have awakened somebody with a clue.

          Cheers, Gene
    • Re:Colleges (Score:2, Informative)

      by ajdecon (233641)

      It should. However, that necessarily mean you can set up a wireless network where a group of friends all shares a single connection to save money: most schools have a clause saying that only one person or computer may use a given connection. A group of twenty people tried that at my school: when the administration found out, they were all required to back pay for personal connections.

  • by GrassyKnowl (547325) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:14PM (#9556980)
    Suppose you are an exhibitor at an expo.

    Can the management of the expo say that you cannot hook up a Wi-Fi router to the network that they have a monopoly over in the convention center?
  • by PinchDuck (199974) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:14PM (#9556984)
    but your landlord can just put the "must use the landlord's wireless network" clause in your lease. You sign away many, many rights when you sign a lease already, this would just be one more.
    • Outside of Manhattan, you could just go find someplace else to live. Yay capitalism!

      Manhattan OTOH is hell for both renters _and_ landlords.. Boo WWII emergency rent control!

      (Less'n you can pay $4k/mo for 2br... Or move to the outer boroughs like any rational techie would since broadband became available..)
    • by kfg (145172) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:44PM (#9557140)
      "prohibit airport authorities from limiting or restricting tenants from implementing and operating a wireless system".

      Emphasis mine.

      You'll find another clause in your lease that goes something like this:

      "If any clause of this contract is found to be void by law it does invalidate other legal clauses."

      You see, they recognize that terms of your lease might well be legally unenforcable, void, and if they don't have that clause such could be held to void the entire lease.

      You are not bound by void clauses, even if you sign them. Your landlord relies on your ingnorance of this fact to get you to follow the terms he wishes.

      This statement by the FCC is that any such clause is void because your landlord has no legal authority to so restrict you, even by contract. It is prohibited.

      No, I am not a lawyer, but I am a landlord.

      KFG

      • Your landlord relies on your ingnorance of this fact to get you to follow the terms he wishes.


        And if you prove, and exercise, your lack of ignorance, you may have a difficult time convincing your landlord to renew your lease next year.
    • This is a really good point, and I suspect you are right.

      The airports will forbid the use of non-airport systems via a condition in the carriers lease, and a clause in the boilerplate on your ticket. (Which you are required to have to get through the security gate....) So I suspect this will be a short lived victory.

    • by breser (16790) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:51PM (#9557169) Homepage
      Actually that's usually not the way it works. Federal law trumps any contract, local or state laws. Consider what happened with cable TV. Apartment complexes tried to say that you couldn't get satellite TV and had to use their cable provider. In the end the FCC ended up ruling that they can't restrict you from installing an antenna. [fcc.gov]

      There are very few exceptions to this rule. Legitimate safey regulations (which is very narrowly defined), regulations related to the preservation of properties listed on the National Register of Historic places, you can't damage someone elses property with your antenna (drilling holes in a railing or roof you don't own), reasonable size restrictions, and finally it has to be in your own private space, not a common area.

      If you take a look at a lot of apartment complexes these days you'll notice a lot of satellite antennas mounted to buckets sitting on decks. This ruling is why. The apartment complexes hate it, they think they're ugly, but there is nothing they can do about it.

      Incidentally this same ruling was ammended to apply to fixed wireless, and yes they do mention Internet access. I don't think it's too difficult to say that this existing ruling already preempts any potential contract clause that you're worried about. At a minimum I think it shows how the FCC would end up ruling on the issue.

      I can't seem to find this new ruling online yet. But I wouldn't be surprised if it also already dealt with this issue. I would imagine that the airlines lease included some sort of clause like this.

      • Now that I've read their ruling that someone else posted, it's clear that their rationale was simply to reaffirm the above linked rulings. They also went so far as to say explicitly that Wi-Fi use qualifies under the fixed wireless portion of the Over-The-Air Reception Devices rulings:

        We also affirm that the rights that consumers have under our rules to install and operate customer antennas one meter or less in size apply to the operation of unlicensed equipment, such as Wi-Fi access points - just as the

    • Again, the point of this ruling is that ONLY THE FCC CAN REGULATE SPECTRUM USE.

      In other words.. if anyone else does it, it's invalid.

      Your landlord could make you sign a contract banning the presence of wifi equipment befor ehe rents you the house, however
      if he permits you to have such equipment in the house, he CANNOT regulate your use if ot.
    • I think most states forbid bundling extra services like internet with a renting agreement.
  • I forget... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:16PM (#9556990)
    It's monday... so do we hate the evil, censoring FCC, or do we love the wonderful "defender of the rights" FCC? I though the love part was only for the weekends...
  • by bobhagopian (681765) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:18PM (#9557002)
    The article says "the FCC has ruled that it has final jurisdiction over unlicensed wireless space"

    I think the ruling is a good one, but something about the previous sentence bothers me: I don't like the idea that the FCC can decide what it does and does not control. Does anyone see the potential for abuse? *puts on tinfoil hat*
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Opti-Fi Networks [flyairpath.com] has been affected by this a few times. Several port authorities have demanded that we remove our AP's pending their approval, effectively removing competition in these markets. On the other hand, when the port authority runs things, the wireless networks tend to be more designed with the "total package" in mind -- the whole airport is usually wired then, and not just Airtran (In the case of Opti-Fi) gates.
  • Hey... (Score:3, Funny)

    by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:26PM (#9557050)
    Wait, we can just do that now? Sweet! I rule only I have jurisdiction over wire mesh screens! Or did somebody else already call that?
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday June 28, 2004 @09:43PM (#9557133) Homepage
    First we learn that Microsoft is essentially using the BSD open source license. Now the FCC is doing something that is pro-consumer. What gives?!

  • by pla (258480) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:15PM (#9557274) Journal
    So... Only the FCC can regulate the use of the RF spectrum. Okay, clear enough...

    What implications does this have for the ubiquitous banning of cell phone use on airplanes (in favor of the much more expensive payphones they have available for passengers who really need to make a call)?

    Personally, I've always considered the cell phone ban during flights as nothing short of offensive. Yeah, suuuuure it interferes with their navigation. Hey, guess what, if cell phones interfered with airplane navigation, the very fact that your phone can get a signal (from huge many-megawatt transmitting cell towers) would cause far more problems than the RF output of your sad little portable transmitter (aka "phone").


    Any thoughts, from someone who might really know the answer to this? Cell phones now kosher, or no? How about WAPs (ie, networked games between two people with 802.11 on their laptops on the same flight)? How about VOIP, if you can get a signal?
    • Cell phone use on airplanes is banned by the FCC, so you have no luck there.
    • by jgabby (158126) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:40PM (#9557384) Journal
      The cell phones are banned on airplanes because the cell phone providers ASKED for them to be. You see, when you're on the ground, you're visible to usually just a couple of cell towers...when you're a few miles up, you're visible to MANY cell towers, and your phone's power is turned to maximum because you're so far from the towers. It creates all sorts of intereference with users on the ground - if you use your phone in the air, you'd be leaving a trail of dropped calls by other people underneath you.

      You know that AirPhone system? That's basically a cell network but with the sites spread far apart so there's no interference. One proposal I've seen is to put a micro-cell on the airplane. It tells everyone's phones to go to a low power mode, which prevents the contact with multiple ground sites, and routes the calls through the AirPhone system those. I'm thinking they would stll charge an arm and a leg for those calls, but that would certainly help minimize the use.

      Because beyond the RF issues, the sanity of the other passengers is at stake. People tend to talk loudly to their phones, especially in environments with high background noise - like an airplane. Having a few loud chatty people in an enclosed space with a lot of people trying to read or sleep would be disastrous.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:58PM (#9557467)
      The GPS and navcom antennas on the exterior of the aircraft are very carefully engineered, installed and tested to work acceptably well in an RF-hostile external environment. The fuselage of an aluminum aircraft is a faraday cage, however, and all the avionics are mounted inside with wiring to their respective antennas also *inside* the fuselage. Any unpredicatable and unpredictably-located RF sources *inside* the fuselage do indeed create all kinds of wild reflected RF harmonics bouncing around all inside the aircraft which have been demonstrated many times to affect the operation of GPS, RNAV/DME and Glideslope receivers, because these receivers are *very* sensitive in order to do their main jobs. That also means they are very sensitive to harmonic RF intererence, phase shift error, etc.
      The expensive payphones installed into airliners have been engineered and *EXHAUSTIVELY* tested to weed out any interference with the airliner's avionics. That's about half why they're so expensive to use. Of course, greed is the other reason. If the captain of an aircraft doesn't want you to operate electronic toys on board his aircraft, you must respect his wishes, he *is* the boss after all.

      I'm a private pilot and own a small single engine airplane. I have both a small GPS system and an older Loran system to augment my navigation. I also carry my cellphone with me everywhere I fly, but I DO turn it off because I've found out that just being on in standby mode, it will noticeably lessen the Loran's ability to lock onto the ground transmitters. The cellphone operates at near microwave frequencies, the Loran operates at about 100KHz, a rather long wavelength. They are at complete opposite ends of the RF spectrum, yet the interference is plainly observable, most likely caused by RF harmonics messing with the sensitive timing in the Loran.
      • well, if Cell phones could actually cause a problem on commercial jets enforcement would be alot more than "you can't use a cell phone", the problem is the cell network getting fucked over.
      • by rjh (40933) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @01:40AM (#9557988)
        Also keep in mind the reason why the cell companies don't want you to be able to call from a plane: cellphones are line-of-sight transmitters.

        From 35,000 feet, line of sight covers most of an entire state. That means the cell network on the ground is going to have a heart attack when it discovers "gaah! I'm getting an identical cell signal in 917 different cell zones! What do I do?!"

        Basically, the cell network wasn't designed for airborne transmitters. When the cell network was being designed, it was just beyond anybody's imagination that cell phones would someday be so prevalent and pervasive that you'd have hundreds of them on each and every 747 flight.

        Yes, I used to work in telecom. Yes, we actually had to deal with this sort of thing on occasion.
    • Yeah, suuuuure it interferes with their navigation.

      Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't cause interference. When a text message or incoming call is coming into my cell phone, and I have it sitting on my desk, I can tell it is coming because the monitor wavers and my speakers click for a few seconds. If it can affect that sort of equipment, I don't want to know what a plane full of cell phones would do to the instruments that are used to fly it.
  • Big government (Score:3, Insightful)

    by svenvder (778211) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:15PM (#9557275)
    Now thats all fine and good but am i the only one paranoid about the government acquiring more power. I say the government should have three jobs: 1) common defense 2) build roads 3) deliver the mail Thats it no more
  • Aye, Here's the Rub (Score:5, Informative)

    by eyeota (686153) on Monday June 28, 2004 @10:29PM (#9557332)
    Ironically, I've been dealing with this exact situation in airports, but the fight is between the dominating terminal tennant and the authority that controls the terminal/airport.

    In short, the Authority controlling the terminal (varies by city/state) wants to control Wireless access to enable 3rd parties to come in (concourse is one of the larger) to sell wireless access with the authority getting profit from the deal.

    The Dominating tennant, usually an airline, has quite a bit of say (They're actually responsible for maintaining the facility set forth by the authority), but has been fighting an uphill battle with frequency allocation. In Short, the authority is looking to make money. The dominating tennant is looking for stability. My company operates a 802.11b network throughout a terminal and we were 'assigned' a channel by the dominating tennant. Obviously, I could run on any frequency I choose, but if I did, they'd shutdown my equipment (my antennas are on their roof, in their IDFs, powered by their power, etc.) and prohibit me from operating. They can, kick me out of the terminal if I won't impact them too much (There's a termination for convienence clause in these leases) or, simply over power my network by broadcasting the same SSID and dropping traffic to an VLAN that goes no where.

    Yes, the FCC says I have certain rights, but when you choose to co-exist with someone who's ultimately a) paying you and/or b) allowing you to make money, politics plays a huge deal so it's best to work it out peacefully.
    • I myself am on the other side of the debate. I work at an auction hall, where a lot of the buying parties rent space for further handling of products. Everybody want to use wireless technology, especially for logistic purposes. The problem is that all the tennants are close up one another, and close up our production processes, where they can serioulsy hinder our logistic processing if they configure their AP's the wrong way.

      I cannot have every company under our roof setting up their wireless networks with
  • It's nice to know that our FCC is looking out for us, even though some of us want to abolish the FCC [slashdot.org].

    Of course, this just means more fodder for wardriving!
  • by macdaddy (38372) on Monday June 28, 2004 @11:26PM (#9557584) Homepage Journal
    I recall hearing something (or perhaps I read it) about Carnegie Mellon Unv [cmu.edu] a number of years back (2000 or 2001 perhaps?) about CMY declaring that all the airwaves above their campus are their sole property and can not be legally interfered with by anyone on or off campus. Basically they wanted to ensure that their wireless network had no competition. I'm thinking it was CMU. I haven't been able to find anything about it though in a few minutes of Googling. The FCC's ruling would mean that CMU could no longer declare unlicensed spectrum to be their own for their own exclusive use (or licensing depending on how you look at it). I see this ruling possibly applying to students in a dorm that want to have an AP in their room. The school says no because they are offering their own wireless access. The FCC ruling would say that's a no no. Interesting ruling no matter how you look at it.
    • The reason that universities want to prohibit using WAPs in dorm rooms is because it's a security risk. Some wardriver can come along and infect the network with the latest worm that would ordinarily be blocked at the firewall. Prohibiting WAPs altogether is a lot easier than permitting WAPs but not permitting them to be attached to the campus network, at least in terms of detection and enforcement.

      At CMU and other schools offering campus-wide wireless access, there's really no *need* to run your own WAP
  • citywide networks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darth Cider (320236) on Monday June 28, 2004 @11:53PM (#9557666)
    I'm also glad for this FCC ruling. After reading about the citywide network [computerworld.com] in Rio Rancho, NM, which has rather hefty subscriber fees ($50/mo for 1 Mb/s), I wondered if authorities were seeking monopolization of WiFi.

    This statement from the FAQs [usurf.com] could indicate that: It's important to have the involvement of city government in approving this type of deployment

    Why? Maybe if the service were free and tax supported, not subscription based. All they really provide is WiMax routers on lamp poles and the 43 Mb/s backhaul. (You supply your own WiFi card/router.) The disruptive technology [pbs.org] that Cringely extolled recently, regarding Linksys/Sveasoft DIY mesh networks, is much preferable.

    What Rio Rancho gets out of the deal is subsidized bandwidth for emergency services, which taxes ought to cover. Now government officials have an interest in suppressing DIY mesh networks. And Rio Rancho is being held up as a model for other communities.

    The FCC ruling is very much in the spirit of Open Source.
  • by Adamis3 (745993) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:11AM (#9557726)
    The ruling applies only to governmental and quasi governmental entities. The private sector can do whatever they please, unless some specific law limits their powers.

    So landlords could restrict tenants rights, regardless of what the FCC does.
    • The ruling applies only to governmental and quasi governmental entities. The private sector can do whatever they please, unless some specific law limits their powers.

      So landlords could restrict tenants rights, regardless of what the FCC does.

      Not so. The FCC has ruled in earlier cases that a homeowner's association cannot prohibit use of satellite dishes even if there is a rule against them (forcing owners to subscribe to a local cable company that pays the association kickbacks, for example.)

      A homeow

  • The FCC isn't in the job of picking what their job is or isn't.
    It wasn't until Reagan deregulated them in terms of commercial length (7 commercial ad time:: 30 air time) such that they could do as they please. Ta-da! infomercials.

There is no royal road to geometry. -- Euclid

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