FCC chief touts importance of Wi-Fi airwaves

The new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission vowed Friday to protect the availability of unlicensed airwaves, which power Wi-Fi networks and other connected devices.

Tom Wheeler, who started at the FCC Monday after a politicized confirmation process, stressed the importance of unlicensed airwaves, such as those used by Wi-Fi connected devices, during an agency workshop on Friday.

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Devices that rely on unlicensed airwaves are a key to American innovation, Wheeler said, pointing to technologies like Bluetooth devices and garage door openers that were once “unimaginable.”

“We must make sure that unlicensed spectrum is a key part of whatever set of decisions that we make,” he said.

“Unlicensed spectrum has been and must continue to be the catalyst for innovation.”

As the FCC conducts the upcoming airwave auctions, it will seek to “continue America’s leadership in the spectrum world,” Wheeler said.

He acknowledged that “there will be tensions” in the auctions, including between broadcasters and mobile carriers.

“It’s a process full of give and take. It’s a process full of challenges,” he said.

Ultimately, the FCC is concerned with making sure the airwaves are used “most efficiently for the common good of this nation to drive economics growth and to make sure that we maintain world leadership in the application of spectrum delivered services.”