FCC moves to free up nation’s Wi-Fi networks The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to relieve crowded Wi-Fi networks that people use in hotels, airports and other public places by increasing available bandwidth for unlicensed consumer devices. As any of us can attest, when a lot of people use a wireless network, speed goes down. As digital demand for bandwidth skyrockets with each new tablet, smartphone and PC, the body has taken closer looks at how to keep people communicating on the wires and, like adding more hoses to a firetruck, looked for ways to increase speeds. The commission proposed making a large chunk of high-frequency spectrum — basically, air waves — in the 5 GHz band, available for use by unlicensed devices, including gadgets like home routers. The FCC will now allow a public comment period, which can take a year sometimes, after which it will finalize the regulations. The move was met by praise from the Consumer Electronics Association. “The Commission’s proposal will expedite ultra high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi in support of the U.S. innovation economy,” president and CEO, Gary Shapiro said in a statement. “CEA and our members look forward to working with the FCC to craft rules that will enable all consumers to access data – whenever and wherever they want.’ However its not an open and shut case of simply opening up the new frequencies. As the New York Times points out, there will be some hurdles since private and government organizations, including the U.S. military, already use some of the proposed spectrum. Also, the auto industry has been moving to “smarter” vehicles — those that can talk to remote computers that monitor things like vehicle health or traffic patterns — and has been trying to find its niche in the wireless world. Scott Belcher, President and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, an advocacy group for the industry applauded the effort to free up bandwidth, but asked the FCC to practice caution. “We also recognize the desire of the Commission to move forward expeditiously, while cautioning against putting near-term life-saving innovations like connected vehicle technology at risk in the pursuit of future Wi-Fi applications,” he said in a statement. In addition, the FCC voted unanimously to approve the use of (approved) boosters to amplify signals between wireless devices. Now you could get a little more juice next time you hook your tablet into a wireless network. Signal boosters are particularly useful in rural and difficult-to-serve indoor environments, such as hospitals, the commission noted.