The Economist writes a call to open access to Broadcom and Atheros's radio technology for greater innovation (subscription required): The writer argues that by keeping their lower-level radio functions and any access to it close to their vest, they're discouraging wider uses of their chips and suppresses interesting projects from CUWiN and community wireless networking groups.
While the two companies produce Wi-Fi chips that don't use formally use SDR, they have aspects of SDR that make their concerns about opening up full control reasonable. And The Economist only suggests that more access than zero would be worthwhile. There is the Madwifi project which involves one programmer who was given access to the RF innards to write an intermediary, proprietary bridge between open-source drivers and the Atheros chips. But that's a pretty limited exposure.
Linux developers ask me all the time: when will Broadcom provide even that support? Perhaps The Economist's prod will cause both companies to think about how to sell more chips without incurring the FCC's wrath.
Mark Rakes notes that there's already an active thread discussing the article over the madwifi newsgroup.
Update: I want to clarify previous remarks a bit. From more technically minded types, I'm reminded to mention that the SDR that Broadcom and Atheros use doesn't allow access to all frequencies, as true SDR has the potential to do. Rather, it's SDR in the sense that there are several frequencies ranges, including both licensed and unlicensed, in certain chipsets.
Atheros and Broadcom should try to strike a balance in offering an abstraction layer which provides mediation so that open-source work could be built on top of it that still conforms to Part 15 rules but has a greater degree of flexibility than the current Madwifi project--and would allow any Linux use for Broadcom chips.
Another update: Sascha sent the link for the paper on which parts of the argument in the Economist argument are based, which he and two colleagues co-authored and delivered at a conference in Sept. 2004. I disagree with their argument that FCC sanctions a strawman; they can't be privy (nor can I) to the non-public aspects of working with the FCC and the issues surrounding partial SDR that might be part of the backstory to this issue.