NRECA is challenging the Federal Communications Commission's decision to open the radio band dedicated to utilities, public safety personnel and law enforcement to access by Wi-Fi providers and other unlicensed users at the risk of public health and safety.

“We had urged the FCC to reconsider its decision allowing unlicensed users access to the 6 gigahertz band, given that research shows how utilities—especially rural electric cooperatives—would suffer from interference on this vital communication resource," said Brian O'Hara, NRECA senior director for telecom and broadband regulatory issues.

“The commission's move leaves us little choice but to find a remedy in court."

NRECA, the Utilities Technology Council and the American Public Power Association petitioned the court July 27 to find the FCC's rule outside the law for allowing unlicensed, low-power indoor devices that connect to the internet, such as an in-home router, to operate on the band to the detriment of critical infrastructure and public safety communications.

NRECA and the utility groups also filed comments to the FCC in response to its plans to open the 6 GHz band further to higher standard power and outdoor devices and systems.

“We think the commission erred in its initial decision to allow indoor unlicensed use in the band, and now the commission wants to expand access to this spectrum band before doing any testing," said O'Hara. “Filings in the record show broad opposition to such a proposal."

The utility groups noted that the FCC lacked real-world experience on how very low-power indoor devices would impact the spectrum. The commission remains without sufficient safeguards or data on crucial communication interference as it prepares to allow greater access, they said.

“If anything, the Commission should reduce the power of these unlicensed operations and/or require them to be controlled using automated frequency coordination," the groups said.

In April, the FCC approved opening the 6 GHz band (5.925–7.125 GHz) by 1,200 megahertz of spectrum for the “next generation of Wi-Fi."