Sigh, FCC Considering Banning Open Source Software Upgrades on Routers

I am a big fan of open source operating system dd-wrt for routers.  I have not bought a router in years that I did not immediately flash from the manufacturer's firmware to dd-wrt.  It is a bit of a headache, but once done I get a router that is a lot more stable (I am also told that it is more secure, but I have no way to judge that).  My router typically runs 6 months without rebooting with no issues, whereas with manufacturer firmware I sometimes have to reboot once a week to make it work.**

The FCC is considering new rules that may cause router manufacturers to lock out third party software like dd-wrt.  The FCC is claiming that "illegally modified equipment" has interfered with doppler radar at airports.  I find it very close to unbelievable that a hacked consumer router was interfering with doppler radar, and in fact the FCC did not specify what kind of equipment was illegally modified.  As is usual, my guess is an agency is using a minute, niche problem in area A as an excuse for blanket, anti-consumer regulation in unrelated area B.  You can sign an online petition to ask the FCC to rethink its approach here.


** To be fair I will add that dd-wrt, typical of a lot of third-party hacker products, is a lot less user friendly than a lot of modern router firmware.  For my streaming system to work at home I have to lock a couple of servers down to a fixed IP address and this is a surprisingly fiddly task on dd-wrt.

  • Another_Brian

    As is usual, my guess is an agency is using a minute, niche problem in area A as an excuse for blanket, anti-consumer regulation in unrelated area B.

    My guess is that router manufacturers are using a niche problem to get the FCC to create anti-consumer regulation (possibly written by the router manufacturers) that allows the government to go after consumers in ways the router manufacturers can't.

  • Kyle Lyles

    It is a complete load of rubbish. This is in my bailiwick, and I'll ensure that we attack these Luddites in DC.

  • Viktor Elefant

    Something actually in my area of expertise...

    Yes - It really did cause interference. In Puerto Rico, mostly. Basically the access points were required to detect when a radar signal was present and move to an alternate channel or band to avoid interfering with the radar. (That band was originally allocated to the radar systems; unlicensed devices were allowed into the band on the condition of implementing that mechanism).

    A number of folks reconfigured their devices to turn off this feature, which led to the interference.

    Here's a longer summary:

  • ErikTheRed

    Considering the number of security flaws in home routers (many of which never get fixed), you're pretty much playing with fire if you don't use DD-WRT or something similar (or use an industrial-grade firewall). If this regulation does come to pass, there will probably be some Rasbperry-Pi style alternatives. Computing power is so cheap these days that it's pretty straightforward to build something that can shuffle packets (and a few more functions) pretty cheaply and openly.

  • morganovich

    also perhaps worth noting:

    the feds cannot pressure an open source program to install a backdoor for snoops.

    they can make cisco or netgear do it by threats and gag orders, but there is no way to do it with open, audited code.

  • LowcountryJoe

    If it was solely up to Hillary Clinton would she be in favor of scrubbing the idea;)