How to kill wireless, Russian style

An interesting snippet (via Engadget) claims that the Russian equivalent of Ofcom - Rossvyazokhrankultura, short for the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service -- has decided that all WiFi devices in Russia need to be registered. Moreover, if you want to set up your own network - in other words, have broadband wireless at home by bunging a router on your DSL line - you'll need a special license, potentially including the consent of your local security agency.

An interesting snippet (via Engadget) claims that the Russian equivalent of Ofcom - Rossvyazokhrankultura, short for the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service -- has decided that all WiFi devices in Russia need to be registered. Moreover, if you want to set up your own network - in other words, have broadband wireless at home by bunging a router on your DSL line - you'll need a special license, potentially including the consent of your local security agency. Don't do it, and you risk having your equipment confiscated and a large fine to pay.

Remarkable, unnecessary and utterly unworkable, of course, but that's never stopped bureaucracies before. The report suggests that the bloke in charge of Ofcomski is out of his depth and thoroughly unqualified to make this sort of regulatory decision -- not hard to believe, given the complex political, economic and technological factors that go with modern regulation. You can almost smell the low-grade logic from here: people with transmitters? They must be controlled.

It reminds me strongly of the days when our own Home Office was in charge of UK radio regulation, and the man in the hot seat was a rather bluff old Army cove. His instinctive reaction to any liberalisation of access was "No. Far too dangerous" - and as he'd inherited a very illiberal regime, this kept the UK population well away from any sort of useful radio technology that didn't involve the BBC. In particular, it was forbidden for any private individual to use any sort of transmitter except for ham radio or model remote control. That was it. There was a gradual relaxation as international agreements made things like cordless telephones commonplace, but veterans of the CB craze in the late 1970s will fondly remember being told that there was no demand, no spare frequencies and far too high a risk of interference with aircraft/ambulances/whatever the Home Office thought would be scariest -- at the same time as millions of people used the darn things anyway with no noticable harmful effect.

Other countries, especially the US, weren't nearly so precious -- and as a result, created whole industries to promote and service tons of different wireless markets. Why their megahertz could support such delights while ours couldn't - well, that was a good question that nobody ever answered.

For the young Goodwins, it was a valuable first lesson in how politicians really dislike telling the truth - and the importance of keeping an eye on other people's realities when working out one's own.

Not that this is much help for the Russians if they're lumbered with their own bluff intransigent nutter at the helm of state regulation: still, reality wins out in the end. 10-4 to that, good buddy.