View Full Version : FCC says free/open source software wireless drivers are OK

July 6th, 2007, 04:21 PM
SFLC Releases White Paper on FCC's New Rules Relating to FOSS in Software-Defined Radio Devices

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), provider of pro-bono legal services to protect and advance Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), today released a white paper that considers new U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, which go into effect today, governing Software-Defined Radio (SDR) devices.

In the white paper, SFLC explains why the FCC's new rules do not restrict independent development and distribution of FOSS made for use in SDR devices. This is because the FCC's new rules only apply to hardware manufacturers who distribute SDR devices, regardless if they use FOSS in them or not. However, the FCC does acknowledge the importance of FOSS — specifically identifying the GNU/Linux operating system — and expressly encourages its use in SDR devices.

"We applaud the FCC for recognizing the importance of Free and Open Source Software in wireless devices," said Matt Norwood, SFLC Counsel. "Although the rules subject FOSS to a higher level of scrutiny to satisfy security requirements for SDR devices, we see this as a strong step forward in clarity that will lead to further discussion and adoption of Free and Open Source Software."

Software-Defined Radio devices are radios that are highly configurable by software. Unlike an AM or FM radio, an SDR device is a generic device that can be reprogrammed to operate in various modes. Today, SDR devices are most often used in cell phones and wireless network cards. They are expected to be used in a greater variety of devices in the future.

The paper is available at http://www.softwarefreedom.org/resources/2007/fcc-sdr-whitepaper.html

Great news (http://www.softwarefreedom.org/news/2007/jul/06/sdr-paper/) from Groklaw's New Picks Now the binary wireless drivers have no excuses other than 'we don't WANT to open the code'. I know that Ubuntu's policy is to allow binary wireless drivers in but they have security problems as we've already seen. Hopefully this can put more pressure on all of them to open their code up as it's not illegal (and probably never was).

July 6th, 2007, 06:46 PM
The downside to this ruling is that mobile technologies that the the industry if looking to as the future, if open source will probably be held back. But at least the major players are fighting it.

July 6th, 2007, 08:13 PM
may be the FCC guys are among the 335,947 registered here !!!:popcorn:

H.E. Pennypacker
July 6th, 2007, 09:09 PM
Absolutely great news, but I fear manufacturers will either find a new excuse or deny this story.

July 6th, 2007, 09:54 PM
I don't really understand why the FCC should have anything to say about it.

July 6th, 2007, 10:52 PM
I don't really understand why the FCC should have anything to say about it.

Because if you had a reeeeally strong wireless card and were reeeally close to a radio station tower you might be able to cause a liiittle bit of interference by tweaking the signal strength and frequency. I'm probably exaggerating about how little effect the wifi card can actually have since if it was that little, they really wouldn't care, but I think the likelihood of anyone bothering to cause interference with their laptop is very small, even if it could have a bit of an effect. I'm guessing it wouldn't have an effect for any distance further than a cell phone jammer would, but I really have no idea. The point is, they think if you're allowed to touch the settings, you'll automatically be stupid and interfere with radio signals, so it's required that the ability to tweak is kept away. That's why a lot of wifi cards have open drivers and closed firmware--the settings for frequency/strength are in the firmware.