FCC’s Rosenworcel pushes for more Wi-Fi

The nation needs to make room for Wi-Fi, a member of the Federal Communications Commission said on Friday.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said the nation is in need of more open space on the unlicensed spectrum, which devices like cordless phones and garage door openers also use to operate.

“Every day, in countless ways, our lives are dependent on wireless connectivity,” she said at the event in Washington, according to prepared remarks. “In fact, they are getting more dependent every day.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Friday’s event was hosted by WiFiForward, a coalition looking to free up space for Wi-Fi. Tech companies and retailers like Comcast, Best Buy, Google and Microsoft are among the organization’s members.

Unlike licensed spectrum, which wireless companies use to connect cellphones and tablets, and broadcasters use to stream radio and TV stations into people’s homes, unlicensed spectrum is open to everyone. Those open airwaves are likely to become even more useful with the rise of the so-called “Internet of things,” or connected devices like “smart” refrigerators and cars that communicate with each other.

The FCC has a set of upcoming auctions to redistribute the licensed spectrum, and wireless companies are prepping to spend billions to keep up with the growing demand from the increase in mobile device usage. 

But Rosenworcel said it should not leave unlicensed airwaves behind. To start, she said the FCC could expand rules for unlicensed spectrum on the 5 GHz band of the spectrum, where residential Wi-Fi devices currently operate.

“That will mean more unlicensed service — and less congestion on licensed wireless networks,” she said. “That’s win-win.”

Rosenworcel noted studies have suggested that in-home Wi-Fi has contributed up to $37 billion to the economy each year.

She also called unlicensed airwaves “sandboxes for experimentation” that allow inventors to come up with new devices.