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FCC sets Nov. 18 vote on safety spectrum reallocation

ATSSA and others say sharing the 5.9 GHz band risks lives

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scheduled for a final vote Nov. 18 on reallocating a portion of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band, commonly known as the safety spectrum, for Wi-Fi.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed sharing the spectrum nearly a year ago and this week reiterated his support for the idea saying that “making more spectrum available for Wi-Fi is critical to meeting America’s growing connectivity need,” Reuters reported.

As reported here, from the outset, ATSSA and others including the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) and the Department of Defense opposed the idea for safety and security reasons.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a letter to Pai last November that “there are too many unknowns and the risks are far too great to federal operations” if Global Positioning System (GPS) signals and other military systems were shifted to another proposed spectrum.

“This could have a significant negative impact on military operations, both in peacetime and war. I, therefore, strongly oppose this license modification,” Esper wrote.

ATSSA Vice President of Government Relations Nate Smith this week repeated the Association’s safety concerns.

“We are in a new and tremendously exciting era of both transportation and roadway safety,” he said. “With the continued deployment of cutting-edge connected and automated technologies in vehicles and in infrastructure, now is certainly not the time to divide up the safety spectrum.

“Safety is paramount for roadway users all around the country, and safety must be the absolute priority for the FCC as well. If enacted, this decision will put the safety of motorists and roadway workers at risk and that is unacceptable. ATSSA strongly opposes any attempt to disrupt the safety spectrum. Period.”

In 1999, the FCC designated the 75 Megahertz (MHz) spectrum in the band for Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), which supports Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs), Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) technology, and a number of roadway safety infrastructure devices. Pai said last year that he was “proposing to make available the lower 45 MHz” of the 5.9 GHz band “for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi.”

The ITS America told Reuters that reallocating most of the 5.9 GHz band is reckless and shortsighted.

“The definition of tragedy and irony is the FCC giving away the safety spectrum to ‘entrenched corporate interests’ to profit from and ignoring transportation safety experts,” ITS America chief executive Shailen Bhatt said.

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