I just saw this post in the user comments on the latest distrowatch weekly (I know, I know) and it has me wondering if this is true:
30 • @7 (by Adam Williamson on 2008-01-14 16:49:25 GMT from Canada)
There is, in fact, no reliable way to legally include a driver for a Broadcom wireless chip that will work without external downloads.
The native driver - bcm43xx, or b43 - requires firmware to work correctly. This firmware can *only* be acquired by extracting it from a Windows driver for the card. Every available copy of the Windows driver for Broadcom cards is licensed in such a way that it cannot legally be packaged into a Linux distribution.
Using ndiswrapper, the alternative method, of course also requires the Windows driver.
The only way either method can work without an external download is if you already have a Windows driver for the chip on your system, but this cannot be relied upon.
Any distro which allows a Broadcom chip to work out of the box without an external download (or without discovering a copy of the Windows driver already present on your machine) is breaking the law by including either a full Windows driver, or the firmware extracted from it, in clear breach of the license.
I've always had bcm43xx working out of the box for me since (at least) vl58.