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To Acclaim, FCC Approves Unlicensed Use of the 6 GigaHertz Band at April Meeting, With Criticism Over 5G Fund

David Jelke

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Photo of the FCC in 1937. Scroll below to see a picture of the current FCC, which was invisible during the audio-only April meeting

April 27, 2020—The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved unlicensed use of the 6 GigaHertz (GHz) band, among other items, at its April meeting.

The rules of use for the 1200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band (from 5.925–7.125 GHz) are expected to help usher in Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of Wi-Fi and which expected to play a major role in the growth of the Internet of Things.

Wi-Fi 6 is purported to be more than two-and-a-half times faster than the current standard and will offer better performance for American consumers.

Opening the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use will also increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi by nearly a factor of five and help improve rural connectivity.

“For many of us, Wi-Fi has helped keep us connected to our families and friends, as well as the outside world,” said agency Chairman Ajit Pai said in explaining his decision.

To read Broadband Breakfast’s article in which Pai previewed the Wi-Fi changes, please read, “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, on Webcast with New America, Singles out Telehealth as Beneficiary of New Unlicensed Spectrum,” April 7, 2020.

“It enables children to take part in distance learning while their parents participate in video conferences for work.  It allows Americans with medical issues to have virtual doctor’s appointments while those they live with stream Tiger King on Netflix.  In short, sheltering in place would be a lot more difficult without Wi-Fi.”

The FCC also voted in favor a new a 5G fund, and which is designed to promote wireless broadband in rural America, over partial dissents by Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks.

The fund is slated to distribute up to $9 billion through the Universal Service Fund, with a special focus on deployments that support precision agriculture.

The FCC also voted to update its satellite rules on orbital debris mitigation for the first time in over 15 years.

Also known as space junk, orbital debris can pose a risk to satellites and inhabitable spacecraft, and in some instances, pieces of debris falling back to earth can pose a risk to persons and property on the surface of the earth.

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