TP-Link nixes use of open source firmware on Wi-Fi routers to comply with new FCC regulations


Citing new Federal Communications Commission requirements, networking equipment vendor TP-Link plans to block the use of open source firmware, including DD-WRT and OpenWRT, on its routers.

According to an Ars Technica article, the decision to prevent user modifications was made because of a new FCC rule that limits interference between devices by disabling modifications that enable wireless networking devices to operate outside of their assigned RF spectrum. That doesn't mean the FCC is taking aim at open source firmware or even user modifications, but to ensure compliance, TP-Link has reduced the hackability of its Wi-Fi routers – something user comments noted are part of the value of the company's networking gear.

According to one reader who goes by the handle S8ER01Z, "TP-Link is one of the most popular brands for OpenWRT. They typically combine good hardware with good hackability at a cheap price, hitting a [sweet] spot. They're typically cheaper and better quality than post-Cisco Linksys, though I haven't looked at them since they were bought by Belkin in 2013. Plus, the software on TP-Link is god awful. Once you flash it with OpenWRT you have an amazing router."

Ars Technica indicated concerns among networking vendors that could lead to a complete lockout on third-party firmware in an effort to comply with FCC regulations. That appears to be the case with regard to TP-Link, which noted in its FAQ, "The FCC requires all manufacturers to prevent user from having any direct ability to change RF parameters (frequency limits, output power, country codes, etc.) In order to keep our products compliant with these implemented regulations, TP-LINK is distributing devices that feature country-specific firmware. Devices sold in the United States will have firmware and wireless settings that ensure compliance with local laws and regulations related to transmission power. As a result of these necessary changes, users are not able to flash the current generation of open-source, third-party firmware."

The FCC regulations officially go into effect on June 2.

For more:
- read the Ars Technica article

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