Does Open-Source Software Make The FCC Irrelevant? [pdf]
Columbia Law School Professor Eben Moglen wants to destroy the Federal Communications Commission. Not as some kind of terrorist act, but because technology is rapidly making it irrelevant.
[...] The spread of open source is a threat to established broadcasters, not to mention cellular telephone companies and other holders of FCC licenses. By using open-source software and low-powered “mesh networks” that can sniff out open frequencies and transmit over them, Moglen says, “we can produce bandwidth in a very collaborative way,” including transmitting video and telephone conversations that would normally ride on commercial networks. The Linksys WRT54G wireless router is for hackers what a Model A Ford was for hotrodders in an earlier era–a highly adaptable platform for experimentation.
“We remove the proprietary software and install open source,” says Sascha Meinrath, co-founder of a group that is providing Urbana, Ill. with free wireless Internet access. By “flashing” communications chips with new instructions downloaded off the Internet, Meinrath says, hackers can add sophisticated features to wireless routers such as the ability to adjust frequency and signal power.
That allows more users to occupy the same crowded slice of radio spectrum. But the same code can just as easily allow users to transmit on frequencies the FCC has licensed to somebody else.
Related?: Divine intervention axes school station
Maynard High School’s radio frequency, 91.7 FM, is being seized by a network of Christian broadcasting stations that the Federal Communications Commission has ruled is a better use of the public airwaves.
“People are furious,” said faculty adviser Joe Magno.
Maynard High’s WAVM, which has been broadcasting from the school for 35 years, found itself in this David vs. Goliath battle when it applied to increase its transmitter signal from 10 to 250 watts.
According to Magno, that “opens the floodgates for any other station to challenge the station’s license and take its frequency.”
Using a point scale that considers such factors as audience size, the FCC ruled the Christian broadcasting network the better applicant. WAVM is given 30 days to appeal, and has done so.