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FCC approves use of 400MHz spectrum for paralysis-treating medical networks

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The FCC has approved the use of medical micropower networks (MMNs) in four blocks of the 400MHz spectrum, though TV and radio broadcasters oppose the new rules due to concern with potential wireless interference.

Alfred Mann Microstimulator
Alfred Mann Microstimulator

On Wednesday the FCC approved the use of medical micropower networks (MMNs) in four blocks of the 400MHz spectrum to treat paralysis and other conditions, despite opposition from TV and radio broadcasters who have expressed concern with the potential for wireless interference. The technology is used to link together microstimulator implants which can use electrical charges to activate limbs in people suffering from paralysis, and the Alfred Mann Foundation, the main proponent of MMNs, says that tests have proved that the medical systems can withstand interference as long as all four blocks of spectrum are open.

According to Network World, three of the spectrum blocks are used by the federal government for things like defense radar, and the Department of Defense will allow MMNs to use them. But the fourth block, requested by the Alfred Mann Foundation, is used by broadcast media outlets that stream live content from news events — the foundation contends that the new networks can be shared with other users, and did not request exclusive access to the part of the spectrum used by broadcast outlets. The FCC pushed forward with the rules and has expressed a strong interest in using its authority to open up wireless spectrum for medical applications, with one commissioner stating that this new rule "may be the most dramatic step we've taken to harness the benefits of communications technology for health care."