FCC Software Configurable Radio Whitepaper

By Eric Schultz, Community Manager, prpl Foundation

I’m excited to be wrapping up this year’s work in the Software Configurable Radio (SCR) sub-group. After a lot of work, I’m happy to report that on December 7, the Technical Advisory Council (TAC) of the FCC approved for release the sub-group’s report.

As background, I’ve been researching and speaking on the topic of regulations related to wireless radios and open source over the last year and half. Given the controversy over these regulations, the TAC, an independent advisory board for the FCC, decided that reviewing the topic would be helpful for regulators. Notably, the SCR sub-group wasn’t charged with addressing any of the particular regulations proposed by the FCC. Instead, the sub-group was asked to consider a more general topic:

“How to strike the appropriate balance between embedding frequency security mechanisms into Software Defined Radios while allowing innovation and the flexible addition of features”

While the sub-group began work in May and ended at the end of November; I was invited to join the group in late October. It was an honor to be asked to participate and a joy to work with experts committed to understanding a difficult topic. I was particularly encouraged by how dedicated every member of the sub-group was to understanding the needs of those from groups they didn’t represent. Every member understood why they were there but they were open to other viewpoints. The sub-group member’s open-mindedness is reflected in the document not only as it applies to technical mechanisms for embedding frequency security mechanisms but also in the social and economic effects of those mechanisms.

As the sub-group analyzed the problem and potential technical solutions we soon realized that finding a balance was not possible for the group in the limited time allotted. The questions we were being asked, although seemingly straightforward technically, actually reach into areas like humanitarian and rescue efforts, amateur radio, international travel, public safety, consumer rights, maker communities, manufacturing economics and others. Even within the free and open source software community, which I represented through prpl, there are many different facets and viewpoints to be analyzed and considered. Given our limitations and the breadth of the topic, the group made a unanimous recommendation that:

“the FCC encourage the formation of a multi-stakeholder forum to find a way in which manufacturers can strike the appropriate balance between embedding security mechanisms into software configurable radios and their ecosystem to ensure compliance with FCC service rules, while allowing innovation and the flexible addition of features, and fostering cybersecurity overall.”

I think this is a fantastic conclusion. We all benefit when individuals from diverse communities collaborate to work on difficult problems. Through this collaborative effort, I’m convinced we will be able to find solutions that meet the needs of the broadest range of people and, in particular, protect the core interests of the open source community. I also look forward to learning more about the specific problems regulators are seeing so we can work collaboratively to address them. In many ways, this effort mirrors how prpl Foundation approaches problems: bringing all relevant parties together to find solutions that meet the needs of everyone involved.

While the decision about how to handle the sub-group’s recommendation lies with the FCC, I’m heartened that Julius Knapp, Chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, spoke supportively during the TAC meeting about having a multi-stakeholder forum look into this topic further. It’s also reassuring that a number of members of the subgroup, including myself, offered to continue their participation in a multi-stakeholder forum. I look forward to participating in the multi-stakeholder forum, should it be created, and in providing advice to all parties as they look to better understand how to balance the interests of the open source community with the interests of regulators.

prpl Foundation collaborating with FCC Working Group

prpl community manager Eric Schultz collaborating with Software Configurable Radio sub-group

Monday, 21 November 2016 – SANTA CLARA, CA

It was confirmed today that Eric Schultz, community manager for the not for profit prpl Foundation, the open-source, community-driven, collaborative, foundation with a focus on enabling next-generation datacenter-to-device portable software and virtualized architectures, has been collaborating with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Technological Advisory Council Software Configurable Radios Sub-Working Group. In this role, Schultz will help educate and guide other TAC members on how proposed FCC regulations may affect the open source community and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) — and explore how the various stakeholders can better work together.

According to Schultz, “It’s exciting to be able to share the viewpoints of the open source community as part of the overall effort to investigate how to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the radio spectrum from interference, while still allowing innovation and the flexible addition of features. These issues have been at the core of prpl Foundation and OpenWrt projects in which I participate.”

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OpenWrt Funding, Round Two

Update September 29: Added additional suggested projects

Update November 7: Announced that we are accepting proposals on a rolling basis.


Following up on the success of our initial round of funding, prpl Foundation, through the prplwrt PEG, is once again offering OpenWrt/LEDE developers an opportunity to submit OpenWrt/LEDE enhancement ideas to be funded by prpl Foundation and its members.

We are accepting submissions on a rolling basis. Projects submitted will be evaluated and approved until funding runs out.

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OpenWrt Summit Sessions

Remember to register for OpenWrt Summit at http://openwrtsummit.org


As the chair of the OpenWrt Summit Committee, I’m excited to announce the accepted sessions for this year’s OpenWrt Summit. Like last year, we had almost too many high-quality proposals but we tried to accept as many of them as possible. While we had a high bar to meet based on our sessions last year, I think this year’s OpenWrt Summit will meet or exceed last year’s. Even though every submission was unique in its own way, this year’s sessions seemed to fit into a number of categories: Continue reading

Open, Hardware-Based IoT Security Can Be a Win/Win for Innovation & Regulation

Art Swift, President, prpl Foundation

In the last blog post, I discussed how regulators are increasingly setting themselves on a collision course with consumers keen to customize and improve the functionality of their products. The key here is the Internet of Things, which is rapidly turning a new generation of products “smart” by adding computing power, network connectivity, and sophisticated software. From cars to routers and drug infusion pumps to drones, they now offer a wealth of possibilities for tech savvy owners keen to push their device capabilities to the limits. At the same time there are logical reasons why lawmakers and regulators need to lock down certain functionality – for the safety and well-being of their citizens. It’s a delicate balance.

The problem is that current IoT systems simply aren’t architected in a way which will allow for this kind of granularity. The answer is a new approach outlined in the prpl Foundation’s new document: Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Embedded Computing. It describes how open source development; secure boot based on a root of trust anchored in the silicon; and hardware virtualization can keep both regulators and consumers happy. Continue reading