NICE AND EASY: Why don’t you need a license for Wi-Fi?

You do, actually… and the good news: you already have it. You might realize that Wi-Fi is a form of radio broadcasting, and so are cell phones, cordless phones, and even some remote controls. Radio broadcasting is tightly regulated, and not only do the radio stations themselves need licenses, but the on-air personalities do to. How is it that you, who possess so much radio technology, get away without even a smidgen of responsibility to the FCC?

Easy answer: The manufacturers do it for you. If you look at every gadget you own that potentially puts out radio waves, you will see that somewhere it carries an FCC ID number. That number (which ironically is usually made of letters) is actually the broadcast callsign of that particular thing. Each device you have is a miniature broadcast facility and each one is licensed. The manufacturer does all the paperwork so you don’t have to.

But why don’t you personally need anything? Because none of your devices broadcast very far. Each one of them, even your cell phone, has a broadcast power level that qualifies it for operation without a license, and each one is designed to operate in specific frequencies that are designed for public use. The FCC (which may or may not have been smarter in the past than they are today) wisely realized that no one was going to buy a garage door opener or microwave oven if it meant applying for a license and taking a test. So, they created a whole set of rules designed to keep unlicensed broadcasts from creating havoc, and you’re the one who benefits.