FCC's O'Rielly: More Needs to Be Done for Wi-Fi

Tuesday (June 20) is World Wi-Fi Day, which FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly noted with an op-ed in The Hill newspaper Monday.

"Tomorrow is World Wi-Fi Day! Yet, no parades will be held, no feasts prepared, and families will not gather together in its honor," he wrote. "Perhaps a subdued celebratory moment is appropriate given that Wi-Fi is generally taken for granted, even though it produces enormous benefits for Internet users around the globe. More precisely, using unlicensed spectrum to offer Wi-Fi has completely changed the reach and breadth of Internet offerings, and for that, we should all be thankful." 

Wi-Fi has become cable operator ISPs' go-to mobile wireless play, with hundreds of thousands of hotspots extending their wired customers' service to train stations and coffee shops around the country.

Wi-Fi is also behind ISPs' push to open up more spectrum in the 5 GHz band, something the FCC has been focused on as well.

O'Rielly concedes that effort but says more needs to be done. 

"This includes making more spectrum bands available for unlicensed use to allow super-wide Wi-Fi channels and making a firm commitment to opening up the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed use, assuming sharing with automotive safety systems is proven possible. We also need to explore whether, and to what degree, Wi-Fi can play a factor in connecting those in the hardest to reach parts of the U.S. without Internet service," he said, adding: "Maybe Wi-Fi is a good technology to stretch existing networks beyond their edges to more rural portions of our nation."

O'Rielly is scheduled to provide opening remarks at a kick-off event at the Consumer Technology Association Innovation House Monday.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.