SFLC Releases White Paper on FCC’s New Rules Relating to FOSS in Software-Defined Radio Devices

July 6, 2007

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), provider of pro-bono legal services to protect and advance Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), today released a white paper that considers new U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, which go into effect today, governing Software-Defined Radio (SDR) devices.

In the white paper, SFLC explains why the FCC’s new rules do not restrict independent development and distribution of FOSS made for use in SDR devices. This is because the FCC’s new rules only apply to hardware manufacturers who distribute SDR devices, regardless if they use FOSS in them or not. However, the FCC does acknowledge the importance of FOSS — specifically identifying the GNU/Linux operating system — and expressly encourages its use in SDR devices.

“We applaud the FCC for recognizing the importance of Free and Open Source Software in wireless devices,” said Matt Norwood, SFLC Counsel. “Although the rules subject FOSS to a higher level of scrutiny to satisfy security requirements for SDR devices, we see this as a strong step forward in clarity that will lead to further discussion and adoption of Free and Open Source Software.”

Software-Defined Radio devices are radios that are highly configurable by software. Unlike an AM or FM radio, an SDR device is a generic device that can be reprogrammed to operate in various modes. Today, SDR devices are most often used in cell phones and wireless network cards. They are expected to be used in a greater variety of devices in the future.

The paper is available at

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