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Alfred E. Kahn, R.I.P.:
A Very Early Wi-Fi Pioneer

Alfred Kahn - Wikipedia photo
Yesterday, former CAB Chairman Alfred Kahn passed away at age 93. So why I am talking about this former Cornell professor, best known as the architect of airline deregulation? Is it because he revealed in a 2008 interview that he really want to be FCC chairman, saying, “I don’t think it’s my highest aspiration to make it possible for people to jet all over the world when the future clearly has to belong to substituting telecommunications for travel”?

No. Prof. Kahn was the impetus behind Executive Order 12044, “Improving Government Regulations” , which is the real beginning of Wi-Fi and several other contemporary wireless technologies.

Section 4 of the EO had the following requirement:

Review of Existing Regulations.
Agencies shall periodically review their existing regulations to determine whether they are achieving the policy goals of this Order. This review will follow the same procedural steps outlined for the development of new regulations.

In selecting regulations to be reviewed, agencies shall consider such criteria as:
(a) the continued need for the regulation;
(b) the type and number of complaints or suggestions received;
(c) the burdens imposed on those directly or indirectly affected by the regulations;
(d) the need to simplify or clarify language;
(e) the need to eliminate overlapping and duplicative regulations; and
(f) the length of time since the regulation has been evaluated or the degree to which technology, economic conditions or other factors have changed in the area affected by the regulation.

While strictly speaking this did not apply to FCC as an independent agency, FCC Chmn. Ferris undertook to follow these steps.

As my former boss, Steve Lukasik, has written this review started FCC down the path of noting that the ongoing implicit prohibition of spread spectrum technology was anachronistic and then changing it. Subsequent actions cleared the way for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and CDMA cellular.

So while Prof. Kahn never made it over to FCC, the snowball he started rolling with EO 12044 had a huge impact on wireless technology and the way we live today.

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