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Published in TidBITS 60.
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Data-PCS, Please

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Boy we're getting to be a pain about all this letter writing, aren't we? OK, we promise to lay off for a while after this one. Remember Apple's petition to the FCC asking that a portion of the radio spectrum be set aside for Data-PCS (Data Personal Communications Service)? Data-PCS provides short range wireless network services and will be vendor-independent, so everyone gets to use it, not just Apple. Well, several people at Apple have requested the public's support now, and since the FCC deadline for outside comment ends May 10th, it seems appropriate to include instructions for making your views known to the FCC.

Although 50 meters is a bit limiting for my tastes, wireless networking would truly ease much of effort spent hooking computer together today and would radically change the way people use networks. My personal favorite use of wireless networks requires some major advances in portable computers - the computer would automatically connect and disconnect from network services where ever you went, making available the full storage and processing power (remember the network distributed computing from a few issues back?) of the local network. Such a scheme would require extremely small portable computers that could be worn like a watch or in a shoulder belt. Displays would either be unnecessary because of voice feedback, in a small ear speaker if necessary, or would work along the lines of the Private Eye virtual display. Control would be voice-oriented with a small chord keyboard for quiet text entry, and ideally, brain wave control using DSP (digital signal processing) chips would be a reality by then. And all of this would center around the services provided by a wireless network for minium local storage and processing in the portable. Some day all this will become a reality, although it will require a shift in philosophy by designers and manufacturers. Wireless networking will help that paradigm shift.

To ease some fears that this is purely a US issue (which it is at the moment, so those of you in other countries can ignore this), let me say that if Data-PCS gains support here, it is more likely to become an international standard. Apple looks favorably on the non-US markets, and would not like to have a product that could not be sold in those markets for lack of the radio band. Anyway, here's a template letter to send to the FCC if you feel strongly that wireless networking will make your life easier. You've all read enough computer manuals to figure out where to put in your information.

(On your institution's letterhead if possible.)
(Date)
Hon. Alfred C. Sikes, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
Reference: Rulemaking 7618

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We (I) understand that Apple Computer, Inc. ("Apple") has asked the FCC to allocate spectrum to establish a new radio service ("Data-PCS") for local area high speed communications among personal computing devices. We are writing to urge you to grant Apple's request (RM-7618).

(Please describe in the text your views on how Data-PCS could be important to you.)

Information from:
Bill Stevens -- bsteven@Apple.COM
John Forre -- jf@ap.co.umist.ac.uk
Bob Snyder -- snyderr@wookumz.gnu.ai.mit.edu

 

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