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Silicon Valley Wins as FCC Moves to Open Airwaves for Wi-Fi

Kevin Cirilli and Todd Shields

(Bloomberg) -- Federal regulators plan to open a new airwaves swath to Wi-Fi devices in a win for Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. that see the spectrum as a fast, ubiquitous connection to the internet.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai plans to set the new use of the so-called 6GHz airwaves to a vote by the agency at its April 23 meeting, said two people briefed on his plans who were not authorized to discuss the matter before it becomes public.

The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Utilities use the airwaves to manage sprawling electrical grids, and have said allowing Wi-Fi networks into the swath threatens to create interference that could jeopardize network reliability.

The debate comes as the FCC works to open up more airwaves for broadband service, and for forthcoming ultrafast 5G wireless networks. The move “could be a big boost to our nation’s 5G future,” Pai said last year as he proposed the change.

(Adds utilities’ concerns in fourth paragraph.)

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