Time Warner Cable and Comcast are preparing to possibly deploy another 13,500 public Wi-Fi hotspots between them. The two require permission from the Federal Communications Commission to do so, and the FCC today began seeking public comments as part of its approval process.
Comcast and TWC want to deploy routers that use unlicensed spectrum in the U-NII-3 band to operate at modified parameters in the U-NII-1 band, which the FCC earlier this year opened for outdoor use, a change that cable in particular had advocated for. (The two bands are near each other, but not adjacent, in the 5 GHz band.)
The U-NII-1 band is already in use, largely by satellite companies. There have long been concerns that opening the spectrum to additional uses might lead to interference. Those concerns were allayed enough to open the spectrum for Wi-Fi under conditions that include power limits and assuring that antenna radiation upward would be strictly limited.
New Wi-FI devices built to operate in the U-NII-1 band are built to operate within those limits, and can be used without additional permission. Routers designed to operate in the U-NII-3 band but reconfigured to operate in the U-NII-1 band require a waiver, however.
TWC and Comcast requested such waivers last summer, the former to set up an additional 3,583 such devices, the latter for an additional 10,000.
The Commission has previously granted such waivers to Cox Communications, TWC, and Comcast. Time Warner and Comcast now seek similar waivers for additional yet-to-be-deployed devices, the FCC said. This proceeding will be treated, for ex parte purposes, as “permit-but-disclose,” the agency added.
Not under consideration is a new problem that is only beginning to percolate.
MSOs have been deploying public access points in Wi-Fi routers that can be partitioned, reserving a portion of the routers’ capacity for public access.
Customers are beginning to object to the scheme. Some are concerned that the security of their communications is threatened because anyone can access their routers. A lawsuit was recently filed claiming that Comcast is getting consumers to power its Wi-Fi network for free – actually worse yet, the customers have to pay for the privilege with equipment rental fees.
Filed Under: Industry regulations