FCC Approves Wireless Signal Boosters, With Caveats
Rejoice, oh sufferers of terrible wireless connections: The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the regulated use of signal boosters to extend the range of wireless networks.
The Commission’s decision, however, comes with several conditions: First, carriers can individually determine whether they will allow their customers to use signal boosters. All four major nationwide carriers and many local carriers have already agreed to allow them. Second, the millions of people who already use unregulated signal boosters to extend the range of their wireless networks will have to register them with their carriers. Finally, the FCC ordered that boosters meet technical requirements that should keep them from interfering with other nearby wireless networks.
The Commission said in a release that regulated boosters would help reduce wireless coverage gaps nationwide.
“Removing consumer and industry uncertainty regarding signal booster use and operation will promote further investment in and use of this promising technology,” reads a release from the FCC. “Signal boosters not only help consumers improve coverage where signal strength is weak, but they also aid public safety first responders by extending wireless access in hard-to serve areas such as tunnels, subways, and garages.”
The FCC’s decision to allow regulated use of signal boosters was only half-heartedly welcomed by Public Knowledge, an Internet access advocacy group which is concerned over the degree of power given to the carriers by the vote.
“The order today creates technical standards for wireless boosters that will hopefully promote sale and adoption of these very useful devices,” said Public Knowledge in a statement. “As Commissioners recognized today, wireless boosters generally improve our wireless networks for everything from routine calls to reaching help in an emergency. Unfortunately, the FCC has chosen carriers over consumers in setting the rules.”
Public Knowledge went on to argue the FCC failed to prove that boosters cause signal interference and that carriers may impose “user fees” should a customer register a booster.
The FCC also voted as expected Wednesday to get the ball rolling on releasing 195MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band, which would pave the way for so-called “Gigabit” ultra high-speed Wi-Fi.
Do you or would you use a wireless signal booster? Share your thoughts in the comments.