FCC Urged to Abandon Personal-Use Booster Signals Restriction

March 24, 2017–Commenters, including wireless carriers, trade groups, corporations, and booster manufacturers, urged the FCC to grant the petition filed in December 2016 by Wilson Electronics LLC to repeal or modify the personal-use restriction on consumer signal boosters (TRDaily, March 3, 2017). They argued that improvements in booster signal technology, the failure of FCC concerns about signal interference to materialize, and the adequacy of existing protections justify elimination of the personal-use restriction.

In 2013, the FCC issued an order with three measures involving consumer signal boosters that were intended to alleviate the commission’s concern that the boosters could interfere with existing wireless networks: (1) a new standard to ensure that new signal booster models were sufficiently designed to avoid network interference, (2) a registration requirement mandating that signal booster users register their boosters with their carriers, and (3) a personal use restriction limiting booster use to individuals in their homes. Wilson’s petition seeks to remove the third measure as unnecessarily restrictive.

“As the past four years have clearly demonstrated,” said Surecall, a booster manufacturer, “the Commission’s Network Protocol Standard and its registration requirement are sufficient to prevent harmful interference to wireless networks.”

Surecall urged the FCC to permit all consumers, including those engaged in commercial activities, to use consumer signal boosters.

The Ad Hoc Telecommunications Users Committee, a collection of wireless telecommunications customers, agreed, adding that any concerns about possible signal interference were “adequately addressed by the framework already adopted by the Commission, which utilizes the NPS, requires licensee consent of signal booster use, and establishes a signal booster registration process.”

Regarding concerns about potential network interference, Sprint Corp. stated that elimination of the personal-use restriction “would not increase the risk of harmful interference to its network.” The wireless carrier supports elimination of the personal-use restriction. T-Mobile US, Inc., also urged the FCC to eliminate the personal-use restriction, noting that the FCC could “increase the benefits associated with signal boosters without jeopardizing network performance.”

When the FCC issued its 2013 order, one of its stated objectives was to enhance wireless coverage for consumers by broadening the availability of signal boosters. The Telecommunications Industry Association argued that the personal-use restriction actually worked against that goal, and it urged the FCC to allow both business and individual consumers to be given the freedom to select the device most suited to their needs. “In this case,” it argued, “the Commission should be concerned with the technical characteristics of the operations, not the identity of the operator.”

The Ad Hoc Committee pointed out that, although businesses were permitted to use industrial signal boosters, for many smaller businesses, the consumer signal boosters were often more cost-efficient and did a better job of meeting their telecommunications needs than the industrial signal boosters. T-Mobile concurred, arguing that elimination of the personal-use restriction “would allow usage by small businesses where industrial signal boosters may not be appropriate or practical.”

Other commenters felt that the personal-use restriction did not just slow wireless availability—it stymied technology development. Nextivity, Inc., for example, referred to the personal-use restriction as an “unnecessary roadblock to further deployment of a cost-efficient technology.” It also argued that “this FCC rule continues to prevent small businesses, enterprises, public institutions, public safety responders, and others from taking advantage of this important wireless coverage solution.”

Replies are due April 3 in WT docket 10-4.

Courtesy TRDaily