Linksys Says Yes to Open Source Firmware

May 18, 2016

Home routers will give room for custom firmware but still comply with FCC rules

The networking hardware vendor Linksys says it will allow users to install open source firmware on some of its devices. Beginning in June 2, 2016, the FCC (U.S. Federal Communication Commission) will require that device manufacturers limit the user's access to wireless router configuration settings. The primary reason behind this requirement is to ensure that users do not operate these routers beyond their licensed radio frequencies, which interferes with other services, such as FAA Doppler weather radar systems. In response to the FCC’s requirements, most vendors decided the easiest path was just to ban open source firmware on their devices.

However, Linksys chose to comply with the FCC while still giving users the ability to install custom firmware. Linksys is working with chip maker Marvell and OpenWrt developers to find a midway point between the FCC requirements and the user's rights. The company plans to separate the RF wireless data from the firmware, so even if a user installs OpenWrt, it will not allow the use of non-licensed radio frequencies. Linksys will allow custom firmware only on WRT routers; the rest of its routers will block custom firmware.

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