It will soon be easier to stream videos and browse the Web on Wi-Fi networks.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Monday to set aside more airwaves for Wi-Fi, a move that will ease congestion and boost speeds for smartphones and laptops.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler described the agency’s action as “spinning straw into gold.”
“This opens all kinds of new opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators as well as relieving congestion,” Wheeler said. “Faster connections, less congestion all make it easier to get online.”
Exploding wireless Internet traffic has clogged Wi-Fi networks in recent years and made it difficult for people to connect to the Internet, especially in crowded areas like convention centers and airports.
Under the FCC’s order, Wi-Fi routers will have access to an additional 100 megahertz of spectrum — the radio frequencies that carry all wireless signals. The spectrum, which is in the 5 gigahertz band, was being used by the satellite phone provider Globalstar, but the company agreed to the new rules after the FCC set interference standards.
“While that sounds technical, this change will have real impact,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
“For starters, if you like Wi-Fi, that is a lot more. Cheers for that. But the power of unlicensed goes beyond on ramps to the Internet and offloading for licensed services. It is the power of setting aside more of our airwaves for experiment and innovation without license. It is bound to yield new and exciting developments. It is also bound to be an economic boon.”
Unlicensed spectrum can be used by any company for free and powers a variety of technologies such as baby monitors and remote controls. But Wi-Fi accounts for the vast majority of traffic that travels over unlicensed spectrum and was what spurred the FCC to enact the new rules.
The FCC’s action will not help services like cellular networks that rely on licenses for exclusive use of spectrum. The FCC officials said they expect the demand for unlicensed spectrum to continue to explode in the coming years as more everyday devices like refrigerators and thermostats connect to the Internet.
The new rules will be finalized once they are published in the Federal Register. Device-makers will then be able to start designing Wi-Fi routers to use the new frequencies.
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.