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Author Topic: FCC: Open source router software is still legal—under certain conditions  (Read 170 times)
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September 25, 2015, 09:19:50 PM

"You are my future"

Locking out OpenWRT and DD-WRT is the easiest way to comply with new FCC rules.

With the Federal Communications Commission being criticized for rules that may limit a user’s right to install open source firmware on wireless routers, we’ve been trying to get more specifics from the FCC about its intentions.

FCC plan to prevent wireless interference could have unintended consequences.

Despite an FCC guidance to router manufacturers that seems to ban open source firmware such as DD-WRT and OpenWRT, FCC spokesperson Charles Meisch told Ars that there is in fact no such ban. But there are restrictions that in some cases could cause a manufacturer to decide to prevent the installation of third-party firmware. In fact, disabling the installation of third-party firmware by the user may be the easiest and most straightforward way for hardware makers to comply with the FCC's guidance.

That guidance specifically requires manufacturers to prevent user modifications that cause radios to operate outside their licensed RF (radio frequency) parameters. The goal is to prevent interference with other systems by making sure devices only work within their allowed frequencies, types of modulation, and power levels. The FCC said its actions are meant to address “interference with FAA Doppler weather radar systems caused by modified devices” and other potential interference problems.

Manufacturers could choose to achieve compliance by simply locking out any kind of third-party firmware, the FCC acknowledged.

“Manufacturers could choose to ban software mods, but if they have a different solution that achieves the same end (preventing RF mods that take the device out of compliance) that would be acceptable,” Meisch told Ars.

Software like DD-WRT can change the transmit power of a router, but it can also perform other functions that don’t affect the router’s compliance with radio frequency rules. Many customers install free, open source firmware on routers to get a better user interface and functionality than what is provided by the hardware vendor. Free software proponents argue that the third-party firmware is updated more often than vendor-supplied firmware and thus can be more secure.

The FCC is considering additional rule changes that could further restrict router modifications, but the most immediate cause of concern in the open source community is a guidance released in March that describes how manufacturers should comply with new security requirements for devices that operate in the 5GHz band. The new requirements were voted on last year and took effect in June this year.

The guidance says, among other things, that hardware makers seeking equipment certification should ensure that “only properly authenticated software is loaded and operating the device,” and they should describe to the FCC “how the device is protected from ‘flashing’ and the installation of third-party firmware such as DD-WRT.”

Hmmmmmm..... NSA backdoor?

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