ITS America Criticizes FCC’s 5.9 GHz Spectrum Proposal

A rendering of connected vehicles. (U.S. Department of Transportation)

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WASHINGTON — A move by the Federal Communications Commission to proceed with a proposal that would devote much of auto safety airwaves to broadband uses was criticized by a key stakeholder at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting Jan. 13.

Intelligent Transportation Society of America CEO Shailen Bhatt said his group would continue to oppose the agency’s effort to reevaluate the 5.9 GHz band rules. He has been a staunch critic of the proposal meant to designate the lower 45 MHz of the band for unlicensed uses, and dedicate the remaining 30 MHz for use by transportation and vehicle safety-related communication services.

“To me, at this juncture, when we have all of this investment and everyone poised to push forward, I don’t know how to categorize it other than a fatally flawed proposal,” Bhatt said. His group promotes sustainability, innovation and safety. “What we believe is happening is they are making this decision in the absence of data.”



Other groups also have come out against the FCC’s proposal. In a letter to the agency last year, members of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials called for preserving the 5.9 GHz spectrum. Also, American Trucking Associations recently emphasized, “The fact is deployment of connected vehicle technology is well underway, with projects already occurring in more than half the states.”

Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill have touted the FCC’s move. The lawmakers, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), along with Reps. Billy Long (R-Mo.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), argued the proposal would boost the spectrum’s efficiency.

“We write to thank you for releasing a proposal to modernize the 5.9 GHz band. As you know, the 5.9 GHz band was originally set aside in 1999 for vehicle-related Dedicated Short-Range Communications. However, this technology has not lived up to its expectations, resulting in much of the 5.9 GHz band to go largely unused. We believe it is time to revisit the allocation of this valuable spectrum to ensure it is being put to the most efficient use,” they wrote to the FCC on Jan. 10.

On Dec. 12, the FCC voted 5-0 to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking with the objective of assessing the 5.9 GHz band rules. Proponents, such as Microsoft and Comcast, argue the move would address growing demand for unlicensed operations such as Wi-Fi. Dedicated Short-Range Communications, or DSRC, is a service pertaining to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications for the purpose of assisting with safety of motorists.

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