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The Internet

Breaking Old Regulations and Old Habits 67

tadghin writes ""Under the current regulatory regime, 802.11 would never have been legalized." Andy Oram reports this comment by David Reed in his summary of a wireless policy BOF session at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference. Andy discusses some of the hidden regulatory threats to wireless networking and what we might do about them, as well as many of the other sessions he attended, in a conference report on Wednesday's sessions."
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Breaking Old Regulations and Old Habits

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  • by eyegor ( 148503 )
    I'm getting a bit sick of all of the industry friendly spectrum giveaw^H^H^H^H^H^Hauctions. How about a bit of spectrum for wireless broadband?
  • Money and Fear (Score:4, Insightful)

    by El Pollo Loco ( 562236 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @05:45PM (#3532958)
    Unfortunantly, as long there is greed in the world, there will always be problems with government legalization. In addition, fear is often also a driving factor. Just look at the large amount of products out there to protect users from cell phonce radiation. People are always scared of new things. Especially if it has the oppurtunity to relive them of some of the money that they have been earning(drug war anyone?).
    • A new band (Score:4, Informative)

      by cyberformer ( 257332 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @06:36PM (#3533229)
      The article calls for a new dedicated spectrum band for wireless networking, that can't be shut down by other users who have a higher priority. But the author doesn't seem to realize that there already is such a band: it's called the Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure band, at 5GHz., and is intended for 802.11a wireless LANs (as well as 802.16 wireless local loop).

      In the medium term, 802.11a will replace 802.11b/Wi-Fi. As well as lack of interference, the U-NII is simply larger, allowing a lot more networks to co-exist in the same airwaves.

      • Unfortunately, depending on exactly where in the 5 GHz band it is in, you may still run into interference from some military stuff. Of course, most people will never have this problem, but it could happen. Sorry I can't elaborate.
  • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @05:49PM (#3532982) Journal

    His proposals for improving the situation included:

    The oft-heard suggestion to make software manufacturers liable for defects.
    (Note: software companies are doing their damnedest to move in the opposite direction, by pushing UCITA laws that would let them get away with releasing known defects.)
    Making other companies liable for their own systems as well. They'd act differently if they knew they could be sued when their customers' social security numbers were released.

    Oh sounds great. So we get to sue the crappy coders. Nice. How about having a huge fine for companies that release crappy code? That sounds great too!

    Except that Microsoft could afford to pay up the fine AND face any huge lawsuits by sheer muscle power. As would Sun. Or for that matter any of the bigger companies. It would mean nothing to them, and people would still continue to buy their stuff.

    But what about Opensource? Whom would you hold responsible? If it becomes a law for one, it's law for another.

    As Schneier said, "Security is a people problem, not a technical problem." Actually, the people he was referring to at that moment were not the malicious crackers themselves, but the crowds of negligent programmers, managers, data centers, and policy-makers who tolerate weak security.

    Yeah, but please note that it is not just corporates who churn out bad code, not just companies. And if it did become a law that bad code will be punished, corporates can fight. A lonely hacker cannot, atleast not that easily. It would hit the OSS community and companies based on the movement a whole lot worse than the big guys.

    Utopian, yes. Pragmatic? No.
    • by sylvester ( 98418 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @06:11PM (#3533110) Homepage
      If it becomes a law for one, it's law for another.

      Not really.

      It's really not that difficult to imagine a law that was written such that those who licensed their IP (code) under certain criteria (zero cost, freely redistributable, modifiable, whatever. Think open source criteria) would be exempt. And in particular, any well-drafted law would have this property.

      Whether one can expect that from the fine congress you folks have elected is another matter entirely. :-)
    • Except that Microsoft could afford to pay up the fine AND face any huge lawsuits by sheer muscle power. As would Sun. Or for that matter any of the bigger companies. It would mean nothing to them, and people would still continue to buy their stuff.

      The resolution to this is to base the fine on per copy retail pricing. If Microsoft Shop (a theoretical planning package allowing you to plan and cost out building projects ranging from making a one legged stool through re-fitting your garage or basement as a manufacturing center) costs $79 per copy retail, and it unwittingly notifies your local zoning office that you plan on setting up a mass distribution center running out of your garage, Microsoft should be fined $79 per copy of Microsoft Shop sold.

      As Microsoft is not the recipient of all of the $79 per copy, they would be paying above and beyond their profit for the product.

      Personally I think this should be based upon the Suggested Retail Price at the time the product is released. So if a major software flaw is found in X-Box, they would be liable for the $299 per device, not the current or upcomming $199 per device.

      Punative damages should be awarded based upon actual costs to consumers for the losses accumulated by the software. If the theoretical problem with Microsoft Shop ultimately cost you $1500 in legal bills to defend the fact that you did not implement the project that you played around with, that cost would be a added as punative damages to any class action suit.

      But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

      As a side effect, Free software (as in beer) would have significantly lower cost per failure. Unfortunately with the potential for punative damages as part of a class action suit, this would have a deletorious effect on poorly managed Open Source/Free software.
    • What would the effects be? Unprecedented professionalism in the software industry. We like to call it Software Engineering. When a Civil Engineer signs off on a bridge, he's stating it is flawless to the best of his ability. He's also accepting liability for the bridge. If software people want to be treated like professionals, they need to accept the same standards as professionals. If you release something that's broken, and it can be proven you know better, your ass is in the can.
      • Exactly, though I would soften the hard line a bit. When you write an OS, it would probably be impossible to code totally bug free code, no matter how much testing you did. The problem here is to define a parameter where the bug crosses into the penalty phase. A minor bug that crashes your system shouldn't be cause for fines, but something like the Melissa virus probably would. Stupid errors were automatic actions like VB scripting are the default should be penalized. Not plugging known security gaps should be penalized. But no one deserves the title of engineer when they release a product with 60k known bugs! "Yes, this bridge works pretty well, even though it has 60,000 structural cracks."
      • um, when a civil engineer signs off on a bridge, he's stating an estimate of cost, materials, time, and impact that it will have. Stuff like how many cars per minute and tons of concrete. Now, a structural engineer has a bit more to do with how it is built, but really, it comes down to the construction laborers and what kind of job they do. And bridges have lots of flaws and fall down or need repairs all the time. Tacoma Narrows anyone?
      • What you're describing is what's known as a Professional Engineer (PE) certification. *Very* few engineers go for their PE, since it takes a lot of time and a lot of money, though the resulting salary increase is very nice. A PE is equivalent to "MD" after a name, or being licensed to practice law. IE, not everyone involved in medicine is an MD, not everyone who works in law offices is a lawyer and has passed the Bar (think paralegals, etc), and not everyone involved in engineering is a PE.

        It's also necessary to usually have at least 4 years of qualifying experience [nspe.org] before you can even take the examination.

        The National Society of Professional Engineers [nspe.org] will have probably more information than you want to deal with on the subject.

        Just remember, when a PE signs off on something, he's signing off on the work of everyone who's worked on the project. Given what I know of most of the other developers I've met, I don't think I'd be willing to be liable for their code...
  • VOTE!
  • 3G wireless (Score:2, Informative)

    by warnerpr ( 9286 )
    I read the part about 802.11 wireless, very interesting.
    But the 3G wireless part was misleading. The section is entitled "Don't forget 3G" but it is all about SMS, which is more of a 2G wireless technology, heck even if it was supposed to be about GPRS that is a 2.5G wireless thing. 3G might not be dead (or even barely born yet really) but SMS is not the proof of this! Happily it is gaining momentum in the US though as more carries move to GSM.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 16, 2002 @06:12PM (#3533117)
    While I realize there is much support for 802.11b in it's 2.4Ghz position, it seems likely that as devices continue to be developed with output in that range, it's going to be impossible to continue recieving clear signals, even in the small 100 foot range that most of the devices promise.

    I also see no compelling reason to believe there is any commercial interest in keeping 802.11b around, as 802.11a devices provide faster throughput (supposedly), have fewer regulatory restrictions, and allow for higher prices / profit margins (due to the two reasons above).

    Given the current political climate as it relates to emerging technologies and the 2.4Ghz band, I would expect to see 802.11b fade away to regulatory condemnation and watch 802.11a take over where 802.11b left off.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 16, 2002 @06:39PM (#3533241)
    >>Now what do you think? Which is more important to the economy and to social progress in general: digital broadband or ham radio? The truth is that ham radio trumps digital broadband, just because ham radio has been around longer and therefore is sanctified with a license to use the spectrum. (Yes, it's happened--a ham radio operator has actually shut down an 802.11 network.) >>

    What do I think? Which is more imporatant? I'd definitely say that ham radio *should* trump digital broadband. Amateur radio is more than just a trivial hobby. Who provided communication for rescue workers in NYC after 9/11 when all the communication antennae on top of the WTC were destroyed? Amateur radio operators. In DC during the Pentagon operation at the same time? Amateur radio operators. Who provided overseas troops in numerous wars the ability to call home and talk to families? Amateur radio operators. The FCC recognizes and provides for the privileges of amateur radio operators particularly because of their value in providing emergency communications, but also because of their improvements and advances in radio communication and for advancing international goodwill.

    The people quoted in this piece obviously believe that commercial purposes should trump all others. Money above all. The airwaves are a public commons and I firmly believe that providing space for ham radio operators to continue practing their hobby (which in turn is practice for providing emergency communications when such arise) is more important than providing inviolable space for 802.11 networking.

    • Amen! Now, if only I could find enough time to study for my license exam...
    • the only problem is the small number of people taking up ham radio. there's much more of a push from businesses to implement some sort of wireless solution. ham radio technology has not changed drastically in many many years. maybe it's due for a technological overhaul. anyone with $30 can go down to the local wal-mart and get a couple of FRS radios, but real ham radios are left to small kits from radio shack.

      i think the whole wavelength segregation the FCC controls needs to be reworked. there no reason for ham radio operators to have precedence over anyone just because they were there first. the USA is based on consumer acceptance of a product. as soon as wireless really starts showing up at your grandma's house, you'll notice ham radio dying off much quicker.

      maybe someone should write some code or build some hardware so 802.11 can contribute to ham radio, by acting as a repeater.
      • the only problem is the small number of people taking up ham radio.
        Why is this a problem?
        ham radio technology has not changed drastically in many many years. maybe it's due for a technological overhaul.
        Ham radio is not just about technology.
        there no reason for ham radio operators to have precedence over anyone just because they were there first.
        When I get on a bus and sit down, 50 other people (each of whom has more money than me) might want to throw me off that seat; but I was there first. It's not just about who was there first either -- ham radio provides a valuable service to all society. It's not just a frivolous hobby. Ham radio operators add more good to society than every O'Reilly sycophant put together ever will.

        Helpful suggestion for Cheeze: Please learn how to use capital letters.

        Disclaimer: I am not (and have never been) an amateur radio operator.

      • Oops, your ignorance is showing. Almost ALL advances in the radio arts in the last 100 years have come from amateur radio operators. We've been doing packet radio since before computer networks existed. Hams are on the cutting edge of microwave communications setting distance records of hundreds of miles in the 300GHz band. We've done spread spectrum for decades and several stations are actively experimenting with ultra wide band. We launch some of the most sophisticated communications satellites in orbit. We operate meteor scatter across the Continent.

        Most HF rigs (the under 50MHz rigs) cost between $1000 and $4000 and are made by Kenwood, Icom and Yaesu. Top names in radio equipment. They use DSPs and speech filters that are years ahead of anything you'll find in consumer products. 2 meter and 70 cm rigs run between $150 and $500, even at Radio Shack.

        Also Hams are critical emergency communication operators. When bad weather happens hams are out there acting as storm spotters and feeding information back to the National Weather Service. Nothing beats trained eyeballs on the spot. We provide communications when 911 systems go down and in disasters we provide the critical link that save lives.

        Realize that the FCC is chartered to maintain the airwaves in trust for the American people and ask your selves who serves the people better, hams or 802.11 in Starbucks?

  • "Under the current regulatory regime, 802.11 would never have been legalized."

    Neither would asprin or alchohol or sunlight.

    We live in a world with silly regulations. They even apply to technology.


  • Goddamn Hams! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phliar ( 87116 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @08:36PM (#3533745) Homepage
    Which is more important to the economy and to social progress in general: digital broadband or ham radio? The truth is that ham radio trumps digital broadband, just because ham radio has been around longer and therefore is sanctified with a license to use the spectrum. (Yes, it's happened--a ham radio operator has actually shut down an 802.11 network.)
    This one section is enough for me to dismiss anything else this crackpot has to say. Yer damn right ham radio trumps your stupid unlicensed network. When there's a disaster and all the landlines are down -- and that includes fiber backbones, broadband-boy -- hams are the ones who relay messages for rescue services.

    Now, about a ham radio operator "actually" shutting down a network -- where and when? Hams are perhaps the most conscientious users of spectrum anywhere. They have clean signals and stay in their bandwidth -- bandwidth they are licensed to operate in. Consumer electronics, on the other hand, are the worst offenders. And 802.11b is unlicensed and must accept all interference caused to it by licensed users -- which includes microwave ovens. Read Part 15 and Part 18 of the FCC regulations.

    ObDisclaimer: I am not (and have never been) a ham radio operator.

    • Hmmm... So, does this mean that a ham radio operator can force people not to use microwave ovens, which also use the 2.4GHz band (and, last time I checked, weren't licensed either)? "Excuse me, ma'am, but I'm confiscating your microwave as an illegal transmitter. Your ham radio operator neighbors have been complaining."

      • Microwave ovens aren't part 15 devices. They are licensed under different rules. I can always tell when someone down the street is defrosting dinner in the microwave because I get interference bands on my TV picture. That's NTSC TV on 2445MHz.

        On every part 15 device are the words:

        "This Device complies with part 15 of the FCC rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) This device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) This device must accept any interference received. Including interference that may cause undesired operation."

        An otherwise legally operated part 15 device that causes interference to hams or any other primary user in that band is operating illegally and must shut down.
    • ISTR that the ARRL website had an article about a 900 MHz netwrok being shut down in the Dallas area. Part 15 states that devices operating under these rules cannot interfere with licensed services.
  • that's why they call the frequency range it works under "unregulated spectrum." Now, they are trying to take away the freedom of it and sell it to corporate interests, same as CB (which stands for "Citizens Band"), but the Ham radio complainers are way off. The regulated Ham networks are on a much lower frequency. 802.11B networks do not interfere unless there is a broken transmitter.
  • by eqteam ( 322882 ) <jason AT eqteam DOT com> on Friday May 17, 2002 @01:08AM (#3535060)
    When 802.11 is mentioned, everyone seems to be assuming 802.11b, which is not the issue. Many people (at least here in Silicon Valley) are setting up long range 1or2Mbps links that are based on 802.11 (no 'b' or 'g', just 802.11). They transmit at much maximum power, using high gain _directional_ antennas to get more than 1000 meters.

    I do still believe that an 802.11b network could cause interference to licensed spectrum users, but buildings have a way of attenuating signals =) (having worked closely with 3 different types of 2.4GHz packet radio technologies)

    For those interested in a detailed explanation (biased?) of FCC part 15 rulings and how they apply to Ham radio operators, I suggest:
    It was enlightening for me!

  • Hmm, no mention of Markey's recent bill, the "Wireless Technology Investment and Digital Dividends Act" aka hr4641. It would use some of the proceeds from spectrum auctions to go to a fund to support digital divide issues and clear our new unlicensed spectrum. There's a companion bill in the Senate that *doesn't* include the spectrum bit, so we'll have to fight for it.

    Yall West Coast politico-wannabe's must be out of it if yall missed this, get in the game already. This stuff is going down in Washington and yall don't even know it. Couldn't Larry Lessig have clued you in? Seriously, here's some resources on this.

    Quick info on the bill from the Center for Digital Democracy [democraticmedia.org] (lead group on the open access fight)

    http://democraticmedia.org/news/washingtonwatch/ma rkeyBill.html [democraticmedia.org]

    The proposal is kinda a scaled down version of the a proposal called the Digital Promise [digitalpromise.org], hatched by a guy who used to head PBS.

    This was all discussed at a gab fest [newamerica.net] at the New America Foundation [newamerica.net] last week. Check out the agenda [newamerica.net] (pdf), the spectrum panel is on towards the end. You'll notice Reed Hundt, former FCC commissioner, and Yochai Benkler who's scholarship intersects w/ free software and other kinds of commons.

Over the shoulder supervision is more a need of the manager than the programming task.