The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously on Wednesday to move forward with a plan to set aside additional frequencies for Wi-Fi devices.
The commission said the proposal would increase the capacity of Wi-Fi networks and would help to relieve congestion on hotspots at hotels, airports and other crowded areas.
"Today, the FCC takes a big step to ease congestion on traditional Wi-Fi networks, which will mean faster speeds and fewer headaches for U.S. consumers," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.
He said that in addition to relieving congestion at major hubs, the proposal would increase speed and capacity in homes where multiple devices are using the same network.
The commission will review public comments before making a final decision on the plan.
The proposal would free up an additional 195 megahertz of spectrum — the frequencies that carry all wireless signals — for Wi-Fi use. The move would increase the available Wi-Fi spectrum in the 5 GHz band by 35 percent, according to the commission.
Genachowski acknowledged that, because other government and commercial groups are already using the band, the plan will require "significant consultation" to avoid interference problems.
"But consultation can’t be an excuse for inaction or delay," Genachowski said.
In a statement, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association praised the vote, and noted that the cable industry already deploys more than 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots around the country.
"But existing Wi-Fi spectrum is growing increasingly congested and more must be found to meet skyrocketing consumer demand and enable increased speeds of next-generation Wi-Fi," the industry lobbying group said. "More extensive use of the 5 GHz band, along with additional unlicensed spectrum in other bands, will permit cable companies and other innovators to continue to provide Americans with new benefits, businesses with new opportunities, and those in need with life-saving connections.”