FCC forces TP-Link to support open source firmware on routers

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A TP-Link router. (credit: TP-Link.)

Networking hardware vendor TP-Link today admitted violating US radio frequency rules by selling routers that could operate at power levels higher than their approved limits. In a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission, TP-Link agreed to pay a $200,000 fine, comply with the rules going forward, and to let customers install open source firmware on routers.

The open source requirement is a unique one, as it isn’t directly related to TP-Link’s violation. Moreover, FCC rules don’t require router makers to allow loading of third-party, open source firmware. In fact, recent changes to FCC rules made it more difficult for router makers to allow open source software.

The TP-Link settlement was announced in the midst of a controversy spurred by those new FCC rules. The new rules for the 5GHz band require router makers to prevent third-party firmware from changing radio frequency parameters in ways that could cause interference with other devices, such as FAA Doppler weather radar systems.

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