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Google Wi-Fi routers experience dropped connectivity problems

Google Wi-Fi routers are dropping connectivity after firmware update; FCC chairman proposes less regulation for ISPs; and Facebook develops drones to deliver disaster area Wi-Fi.

In telecom news: Google Wi-Fi routers were released only a few months ago, but some are now randomly dropping connectivity; the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has proposed reversing the net neutrality Title II classification; and Facebook is looking to provide Wi-Fi to disaster areas with a tethered helicopter drone.

Google Wi-Fi routers encounter connectivity drops

A number of Google Wi-Fi routers are experiencing sporadic drops in connectivity. After Google automatically rolled out a firmware release in March, customers began to complain on a Google forum that their Google Wi-Fi routers were losing connectivity and wouldn't retain a stable connection, even after a factory reset. According to a report on The Verge, Google identified the issue in April and suggested temporary fixes. The company also said it will release another automatic software update intended to fix the problem. Google's releases typically occur every six weeks.

For now, Google recommends that users set up the affected Google Wi-Fi routers from scratch, using a new or different account, or disconnect any Windows 10 or Xbox devices from the Wi-Fi network. Connections with these types of devices appear to correlate with the issue, although some customers said the connectivity drops continued after trying the suggested methods. Users are unable to roll back to the previous version of firmware and can only wait for the next release. Google Wi-Fi routers became available in December 2016 and have encountered other setbacks in the first few months after release.

Google Wi-Fi routers are designed to replace traditional routers and seamlessly provide Wi-Fi throughout the home via access points. One Wi-Fi router covers 500 to 1,500 square feet, while a package of three routers can be used for larger spaces, ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 square feet. Google describes its product as a mesh Wi-Fi system that allows wireless communication among a group of routers to create a single Wi-Fi network. An app controls the routers, connected devices, troubleshooting and other features. A single Google Wi-Fi router costs $129, while a bundle of three is priced at $299.

FCC chairman proposes Title II reversal

Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has proposed reversing Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 -- a law that classified internet service providers (ISPs) as carriers in 2015 and gave the FCC authority to regulate telecommunication services and net neutrality rules. The proposal has already encountered a mixture of support and resistance, according to a Bloomberg report.

A Title II reversal to Title I would instead classify broadband as an information service rather than a telecommunication service, which would, in turn, lessen the FCC's jurisdiction to regulate the internet. Other results of such a move would include the removal of traffic prioritization regulations, overall lighter ISP regulations and, Pai said, cheaper internet access for consumers and a more open internet. Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler established the Title II regulation in 2015, which allowed the FCC to create regulations that prevent ISP traffic prioritization, blocking or competition throttling.

The FCC vote is scheduled for May 18.

Facebook developing Wi-Fi drone for times of crisis

Facebook announced it is developing a project that will provide Wi-Fi connectivity in disaster situations. The project -- called Tether-tenna -- is a helicopter drone tethered to a fiber line and a grounded power source. The drone sends out the Wi-Fi signal from the air, providing short-term connectivity when Wi-Fi towers go down or become damaged, Recode reported.  

The project is still in early stages of development, but Facebook reported that the ultimate goal is to have the drone -- about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle -- remain in the air for weeks or months at a time. Various factors like weather and the range of Wi-Fi connectivity are necessary considerations during development.

Other Facebook connectivity projects include Aquila, a solar-powered drone with a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737. Aquila's purpose is to provide internet access to remote parts of the world that are without traditional broadband connections. Aquila's first test flight lasted about 90 minutes -- longer than the originally intended 30 minutes -- but crashed upon landing, allegedly due to high winds. Facebook announced it will be working on a braking system to ease landing, according to another Recode report.

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