Tech companies, utilities in conflict on opening airwaves

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Large tech companies including Apple and Facebook contend the airwaves in the 6 gigahertz range should be open for use by the next generation of lightning-fast wireless networks. Utilities say the new networks threaten to create interference that could make it harder to keep the lights on. "Opening the 6 GHz band to unlicensed users could cause interference with our signals and could jeopardize the reliability of our communications network,' said Mike Twomey, a senior vice president for federal policy and government affairs for Entergy in New Orleans.

The airwaves in the 6 gigahertz range used by utilities, pipeline operators, police and fire departments, and others happen to be ideally positioned on the spectrum to accommodate 5G networks. Tech and telecommunication companies say technology exists to open them up without interfering with emergency services. Aside from their concerns about interference, utilities say the Federal Communications Commission seems to be rushing its proposal through. "Keeping the 6 GHz band is critical to the reliability of the electric grid," said Joy Ditto, who heads the Washington-based Utilities Technology Council. "There's no ready replacement."

Dispute brews on opening airwaves