FCC Says Airports Can't Regulate Wi-Fi
By Mike Masnick, Sat Jun 26 02:45:00 EEST 2004

The FCC has quickly stepped in to clear up some confusion over who owned the airwaves around an airport for setting up things like Wi-Fi networks.

There's been an ongoing battle between airports and their tenants (airlines and various retail shops) concerning who "owns" the airwaves in the airport. The airports want control over the airwaves, so they can set up a big Wi-Fi system, and charge everyone to use it. The tenants want to be able to set up their own Wi-Fi. While the airports suggest competing networks may cause interference problems, most have suspected it was the economic issue that was really driving them.

This could represent a larger issue, however. If the airports were found to have the legal right to be the sole Wi-Fi provider, it's conceivable that an apartment building owner or an office building owner could do the same sort of thing with their tenants -- forcing them to purchase their way into a building-wide Wi-Fi system.

Luckily, the FCC has quickly stepped in and made it clear that only they can regulate unlicensed wireless usage, meaning the tenants are free to do what they want. They base this on the same ruling that allows anyone in an apartment to set up a satellite TV or wireless broadband system for their house without having to first get permission from their landlord. They do not want the landlord to be able to unfairly control the options a tenant has to access "basic services." While it may make the landlords upset, it's the proper ruling to continue to promote Wi-Fi usage in a competitive market.