WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday took a step to relieve growing congestion on Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airports and homes, where Americans increasingly use multiple data-hungry tablets, smartphones and other devices for wireless communications.
The commission proposed making a large chunk of high-frequency airwaves, or spectrum, available for use by unlicensed devices, including Wi-Fi routers like those that many Americans use in their homes.
The agency's five commissioners also expressed hopes that the new airwaves would unleash new innovations, just as unlicensed spectrum in the past has made possible such devices as cordless phones, garage door openers and television remote controls.
After a public comment period, the commissioners will try to issue final rules and regulations, a process that could take a year or more. But all of the commissioners expressed hope that the new airwaves could be put to use without unnecessary delay.
Possible roadblocks do exist, however, mainly because some of the airwaves proposed for the new applications are already in use by private organizations and government agencies, including the United States military.
Congress has mandated that the F.C.C. undertake the expansion of unlicensed spectrum, and the Obama administration has urged the freeing up or sharing of airwaves currently allocated to the federal government.
But various government agencies, including a division of the Commerce Department, have warned against allowing consumer uses to interfere with current applications.
Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant commerce secretary for communications and information, said in a letter to the commission that the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and NASA use parts of the same airwaves for communication between aircraft and ground stations. Those communications enable activities like drug interdiction, combat search and rescue, and border surveillance.
Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said he was confident that the commission's engineers would be able to work with the affected government and private entities to solve interference problems.
"It's very important for the country that we all lean into this in a problem-solving way," Mr. Genachowski said. "This is not a new challenge for the commission to address."
While "it will require significant consultation with stakeholders" to avoid problems, he added, "consultation can't be an excuse for inaction or delay."
The commission also voted unanimously to approve a new regulation allowing consumers and companies to use approved and licensed signal boosters to amplify signals between wireless devices, like cellphones, and the wireless networks on which they operate.
Those boosters, millions of which are currently used in ungoverned applications, help consumers and businesses improve coverage where cell signals are weak. Boosters are also used by public safety departments to extend wireless access in tunnels, subways and garages.
The order, which takes effect March 1, creates two classes of signal boosters, for use by consumers and businesses, each with distinct requirements to minimize interference with wireless networks.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.