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[Ham-80211] Municipal WiFi Meets Free WiFi

RussellHltn RussellHltn at compuserve.com
Sun Aug 28 20:10:02 UTC 2005

Response to multiple messages:

Standard disclaimers apply:  I'm not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV, but
doesn't mean I haven't learned a few things.

>>> Is a group/company/etc able to keep someone from installing an
radio device on their property?  <<<

I'd give it a qualified yes.  To the extent that something in the
lease/rules/Terms of service/whatever gives them an angle to regulate it.
Property owners do have considerable control over what is done on their
properties.  I'm a bit surprised that this disagreement has gotten this far.
I'm wondering what all the factors are.  Because if it is landlord/tenet,
all the Part Authority would have to do is say "just wait until it comes
time to renegotiate the lease".  I'm really surprised that Continental is
willing to push this issue this hard unless they have some sort of clout
over the Port Authority ("we no longer need this airport as a hub.  Enjoy
your empty buildings.")

>>> At the university I attend ....  An excerpt from their policy says, 
	"...is sole owner of the unlicensed frequencies on campus, to
prevent 	interference, safeguard University resources, and ensure
service." <<<

I seriously doubt that would fly in court.  It's a nice bluff, but they are
trying to grab ownership for things they do not have the authority to do so.
It's like a landowner claiming mineral rights when the deed he has doesn't
grant them.  The Federal Government has made clear that they own and manage
the airwaves.

>>> How would say a ham with an AP operating under part 97 be affected in
cases?  <<<

If you're talking about 2 hams who go to the airport and while sitting at
the gate open up their laptops and start operating, I image they could be
asked to stop.  They may be licensed, but that doesn't grant them "beach
access rights" to be able to have access to those frequencies when they
desire.  If a ham goes on board a ship, they may use their rig - with
permission from the captain.  Now if two hams were to set up a network
outside of the airport but beamed the signal though the airport space and
interfered with their service, the airport would have no authority to deal
with that.  The actions are happening on property outside of their control
and they have no regulatory authority over the airwaves.

Likewise, if I lived across the street from your university and beam my
access point into the university courtyard I don't think they'd have any
ability to regulate me.  I'm on grounds outside of their control and they
have no way to try and coerce me into cooperation.  (They might try and
coerce the students into not using my signal, but that might be difficult if
they permit them to accept use the university's signal - same action.)  This
is keeping in mind that malicious interference is always wrong and never
protected.  Where the university attempt to jam my signal, (or I jam theirs)
the FCC might jump in.  (If the FCC will bother is another story.)

What does make this case interesting is that Continental is trying to extend
the OTARD rules to WiFi.  This was the set of rules that granted "airwave
access rights" to users of small dish satellite systems sweeping aside some
of the covenants and restrictions placed on homeowners in planned
communities.  If Continental is successful in doing so, then that would
change what I've talked about so far.  A student could set up a AP in their
room and the dorm rules wouldn't be able to touch him regardless of what the
lease says.  (The TOS of the university network would probably still apply -
the student couldn't connect it to the network.)

>>>  Massport is using unlicensed WiFi devices, which must accept
harmful interference, to transport public safety information.
In my opinion, it is probably irresponsible to use a WiFi network
(in an uncontrolled environment) for safety-critical information.<<<

Excellent point.  Payday for the first lawyer to come along after that
system fails.

I haven't paid too much attention to that angle, but I was under the
impression that MPA was claiming that Continental's AP interfered with their
*other* systems that were pubic safety, not that pubic safety was going over
WiFi.  Of course I laughed when I read that one.  In doing some research,
the best I can find is "Last month, a Massport attorney warned the airline
that its antenna ''presents an unacceptable potential risk'' to Logan's
safety and security systems, including its key-card access system and State
Police communications."

Either Continental's system was really, really bad (not likely), or MPA's
system was really, really sensitive - in which case it needs to be fixed in
the name of pubic safety (not impossible but not likely), or that MPA has
lying weasels "doing what needs to be done" to get their way, or that MPA
has some "competency issues".  (I'll let you calculate the odds on the last

As far as Monopolies go, WiFi doesn't require a Monopoly to work. There is
room for some limited competition.

It always bothers me when a business wants to make a buck by using WiFi in
the community.  Some versions of BPL use the power lines to get the network
signal to an access point and use WiFi as the link into the home.  The
problem of course is that the neighbor's 2.4GHz phone or their private WiFi
could interfere with this arrangement and the service provider would be
limited to asking for cooperation in getting it resolved.  I'm concerned at
some point the company will try to say "we're a business, we trump your
private use" and try to grab the WiFi airwaves.

Anyway, my 2¢ on the subject.

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