THE EUROPEAN UNION PARLIAMENT has adopted amendments to the European Union Spectrum Policy that allows free use of airwaves by citizens.
The Industry, Transport and Research (ITRE) Committee of the European Union Parliament said that it will adopt amendments to allow EU citizens free access to certain parts of the radio spectrum. Internet freedom advocacy group La Quadrature du Net said the move would "lead to the development of the next generations of free wireless Internet communications".
The ITRE decision to open up so called 'white space' in the spectrum should allow communities to deploy their own wireless networks. Other amendments made by the EU Parliament include the use of wireless mesh networks and femtocells.
Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net said the decision was an "encouraging vote in favour of free and open wireless communications". Zimmermann added that he expects telecom companies to battle hard against it, saying, "We can be sure that the telecoms and broadcasting industries will lobby hard in order to remain in control of airwaves. For the sake of innovation and freedom of communication, it is crucial that wireless Internet become more open, and that the Commission actually and promptly follows the opinion of the Parliament towards an inclusive spectrum policy."
For telecoms operators, especially those who operate mobile networks, municipal WiFi connectivity threatens their ability to charge for data traffic. With the growth in popularity of smartphones and tablets, many operators that paid handsomely for 3G licenses at the tail end of the 20th century will be looking to safeguard their investments by lobbying for the EU Commission to drop support for opening up the 'white space' bandwidths for free use.
The EU Parliament's decision is certainly a victory for communities and users, but it's likely that telecoms operators will have a lot to say before we start seeing community networks springing up all over the place. µ