Tech and utilities clash over proposed FCC rule to allow unlicensed users to access the 6GHz band

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The Federal Communications Commission recently proposed a new rule that will allow unlicensed users to access the 6 GHz band — a frequency on the radio spectrum — for Wi-Fi connectivity, causing a disagreement between broadband companies that would benefit from the rule and utility companies that currently rely on the frequency to communicate. The FCC reserves portions of the 6 GHz band for communications between licensed electric, water and natural gas utilities companies. The FCC says the proposed change to open the band to unlicensed users will solve the country's airwave shortage problem and improve Wi-Fi capabilities for mobile devices and wireless routers. Utility leaders say the FCC focuses more on the needs of the telecommunications sector and does not understand the negative effects their decisions might have on critical infrastructure operations. Tech companies — including Apple, Google, Cisco, Facebook and HP — support the FCC plan, arguing that wireless broadband services will need it to meet growing demand.

[Sarah E. Hunt is the co-founder and CEO of Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy.]

Tech and utilities clash over proposed FCC broadband rule