[Battlemesh] IEEE magazine on FCC lockdown

Sven Eckelmann sven at narfation.org
Wed Apr 20 11:18:03 CEST 2016

On Wednesday 20 April 2016 09:42:00 leonardo wrote:
> via bufferbloat-FCC-discuss...
> It seems that the author of this paper in IEEE consumer electronic
> thinks that Simon Wunderlich did not get things right about FCC
> intentions. 
> Really, this is what he says...
> http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=7450774&tag=1

No, he isn't. The author uses Simon's statements about the possible effect 
(which unfortunately is already visible because device vendors started to lock 
down the devices - not the only wifi chip firmware) to explain what he thinks 
is the actual intention of the FCC. I completely disagree with his use of the 
statement "But paranoia still exists that the FCC is being empowered by evil 
corporations ..." because it pushes the movement against the new FCC 
requirements in the fearmongering corner. Most likely not his own intent but 
this is how it reads for "affected" people.

There is still a difference between the intention of the FCC and the effects. 
And we should also consider that "evil" is not just an attribute which you 
assign to yourself like in D&D. The branding "evil" is assigned by other 
people based on their view about a topic or an action. If we really want to 
say that this move by the FCC is "evil" (I actually don't want it - but just 
use the words of this author for now) then it is just because the effects for 
us are bad. Vendors already shut down their hardware "completely" and we first 
have to break their "security" to make use of the hardware again.

The author doesn't point out the intent of this session in last years 
battlemesh when he used it to describe the opposition of the new requirement. 
It was to done (please correct me Simon) to discuss this problem and to find 
solutions which would make the operators of community networks, the hardware 
vendors and FCC happy. I would say that this didn't succeeded. At least the 
information about the new FCC requirements were spread and let to some 
projects [1,2,3] that discussed this problem further and called for more 

But maybe he just didn't write about this extensively about the session to 
keep his article short. This would also explain why he didn't write about the 
possible (non-"evil") reasons for this new FCC requirement discussed in this 

And his statement "FCC is calling out in FCC 14-30 is the “firmware” that is 
located inside the radio chip or application-specific integrated circuit" is 
rather controversial because they used the term "DD-WRT" (which is a device 
firmware and not a wifi chip firmware) earlier in their questionnaire. It was 
most likely not their intent but they made it really hard not to interpret it 
this way. And right now, WiFi firmware chip versions can still be replaced and 
mostly only hindered the lawful use of the devices (e.g. in mesh networks with 
ath10k). I don't know (but could easily be wrong) of any widely deployed wifi 
chip used in community networks which uses some kind of cryptographic 
mechanism which would stop anyone from installing a hacked wifi chip firmware 
(and wifi chip firmware only). But even when it doesn't exist now - maybe this 
will come and thus confirm his standpoint.

But I doubt that he doesn't know about the background because he already links 
the Wired article [4] about the FCC lockdown. It would also nice when he would 
also quoted the next sentence from the Wired article: "It’s just that breaking 
those locks opens tinkerers up to prosecution under the Digital Millennium 
Copyright Act—a distinction comes with up to 5 years in prison and $500,000 
fine.". Not that I would know a lot about the legal background but at least 
this statement sounds important in context of his earlier quote which 
trivialized the breaking of digital locks.

We will not start to being happy and praise the new FCC requirements but I 
think he has the rights to point out the intentions we may (or may not) have 
missed. But at least for me it was nothing new which wasn't written already at 
many other articles.

Kind regards,

[1] http://huchra.bufferbloat.net/~d/fcc_saner_software_practices.pdf
[2] http://savewifi.org/
[3] https://fsfe.org/activities/radiodirective/
    (this is about the EU counterpart)
[4] http://www.wired.com/2015/09/hey-fcc-dont-lock-wi-fi-routers/
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