O'Rielly Slams WiFi Fine

Says FCC Shouldn't Set Complex Policy via Enforcement Action

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly says that the agency is trying to "set important and complex regulatory policy by enforcement adjudication" through its series of consent decrees and enforcement advisories on WiFi blocking.

The most recent was against M.C. Dean for allegedly blocking access dozens of times at the Baltimore Convention Center.

In a statement dissenting from that Enforcement Bureau decision, O'Rielly said that while he is a strong supporter of WiFi, he could not support the "expansive" reading of the statute.

"Section 333 prohibits willful or malicious interference 'to any radio communication of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act,' " he said. "There is no clear intent that Congress meant to ensnare Part 15 devices ["deauthentication technology to manage Wi-Fi systems"] when it used the word 'station.' "

He said that if such technology is considered a station, would it then be subject to foreign ownership restrictions or other rules.

O'Rielly said there are other questions better answered by seeking "congressional clarification" or through a "broad rulemaking."

He also said it was not clear how the FCC came up with the $718,000 proposed fine figure.