The BCC asks, “What if the net was as free as air?”; Sirius Satellite Radio Says: WAH! Stop It!

  • The BCC asks, “What if the net was as free as air?”; Sirius Satellite Radio Says: WAH! Stop It!
    The BBC’s article covers a wireless freenet project in London that has over 400 nodes providing wireless Internet access throughout the city. It’s similar to wireless freenet projects going on all over the US, except that according to the article this one got its start in 1995, which is quite an early beginning. I did a short radio documentary/profile of the free wireless project in Champaign-Urbana, IL on the March 1 edition of the mediageek radio show. The C-U wireless project is a good example of trying to get a smaller city blanketed in the ‘net, with their current focus to get connectivity down a 1/2 mile of thoroughfare in central Urbana.

    Unfortunately, according to Wireless News, Sirius Satellite Radio is petitioning the FCC to limit unlicensed wireless Internet activity, claiming that it will interfere with its yet-to-be-launched satellite radio service which operates on a band about 55 Mhz away. If enacted, the rules would cut wireless Internet broadcast power by a third, reducing its range and rendering existing equipment in need of a retrofit.

    This is yet another case of the public interest being pitted against (needless) corporate profit. Which is potentially more important and valuable to a community, the existence of free or low-cost high-speed Internet connectivity, or access to a $19.95 a month satellite radio service, which, incidentally, will contain little or no content of local interest? Never mind that Sirius’ petition is entirely pre-emptive, since it has yet to actually launch, and so no interference has been shown to actually exist. And, still, this goes on while Sirius and XM Satellite Radio–which is actually in operation now–are trying to convince the FCC to continue to allow them to have high-wattage terrestrial (as in, “not satellite”) transmitter to fill in where their satellite signals are weak (click here to see their petition in pdf format). There are some other folks who say these terrestrial “satellite” transmitters will interefere with their signals. Seems one corporation’s signal is another corporation’s interference.

    If the FCC goes with Sirius’ petition, there will be no clearer indication that the Commission values corporate profits over the valuable and efficient use of the spectrum for actual public service and public interest (and I wish I could be surprised). But then there will be thousands of pissed off wireless networking geeks who might be ready to engage in mass acts of civil disobedience by keeping their wireless base stations going–maybe even hot-rodded for higher power, just to screw with Sirius and keep their freenets going. Pirate and micropower radio should serve as an example — the technology is out of the bag, it is useful, and it will not be controlled. If currently legal wireless Internet can screw with Sirius’ signal, then I think maybe Sirius didn’t do their engineering homework and they get what they deserve.

    You can read Sirius’ petition to limit wireless Internet in pdf format as served out by the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System. (Thanks to Mark from C-U wireless for the pointer to the Wireless News article)


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