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March 30, 2020 3:00 PM, EDT

FCC Extends 5.9 GHz Spectrum Proposal Comment Deadline

FCCAjit Pai via Evan Vucci/Associated Press

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The Federal Communications Commission recently extended the opportunity to reply to comments on its proposed rulemaking to dedicate a significant aspect of auto safety airwaves for broadband uses.

The agency’s Office of Engineering and Technology extended the reply comment period by three weeks. The initial public comments were due by March 9. Reply comments were originally due by April 6. The new deadline is April 27.

“Under the circumstances presented, we conclude that a limited 21-day extension of the reply comment deadline is warranted in order to develop the record to the fullest extent possible in this proceeding. Interested parties can use this time to develop complete, fully supported reply comments,” the Office of Engineering and Technology announced March 25. The FCC’s proposal regarding the 5.9 GHz band rules is meant to designate the lower 45 MHz of the band for unlicensed uses. The remaining 30 MHz would be dedicated for transportation and vehicle safety-related communication services.

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Stakeholders requesting such an extension argued the coronavirus pandemic disrupted their ability to meet the original deadline. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, for instance, had requested the comment period be extended an additional 90 days.

“Simply put, given the current situation, the state [transportation departments] do not have the current capacity to read through, analyze and develop responses to the hundreds of comments posted to the docket on this very important matter,” Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, wrote to the FCC on March 20. “Our members believe the decision that FCC is making will severely affect the health and safety of millions of Americans. However, our members are also responding to a more immediate health and safety challenge, COVID-19, which must take priority.”

FCC Notice by Transport Topics on Scribd

Intelligent Transportation Society of America, an opponent of the proposed rulemaking, had called on the FCC to withdraw its proposal and prioritize transportation safety.

“The FCC is proposing this change without any analysis or evidence that shows these life-saving technologies will continue to operate successfully in only 30 MHz of spectrum,” argued ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt on March 9. “Its proposal is based on an incomplete and flawed understanding of the role the 5.9 GHz band plays in creating a safer transportation network.”

Additionally, American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear had criticized the FCC’s push to change its spectrum allocation. In a letter to the FCC on Feb. 5, he noted, “The proposal seems predestined to ultimately result in a full takeover of the band for unlicensed use.”

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear

Spear

In December, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking by a vote of 5-0. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained at the time the move “maximizes the band’s value for the American people, and it would do far more for automotive safety.” Proponents, such as Microsoft and Comcast, argue it would address a demand for operations such as Wi-Fi.

For about 20 years, the 5.9 GHz band has been reserved for Dedicated Short-Range Communications, or DSRC, pertaining to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications to assist with the safety of motorists.

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