Erica Terrini

ATSSA opposes new 5.9 GHz band proposal announced by FCC chairman

Public can provide input Thursday on whether to allocate portion of spectrum to Wi-Fi

The Department of Defense (DOD), the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), and ATSSA oppose a new 5.9 Gigahertz (GHz) band proposal recently made by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai.

The FCC is looking to reallocate part of the spectrum to WiFi, Pai said Nov. 20 during a meeting with Citizens Against Government Waste, New America’s Open Technology Institute, and WifiForward in Washington, D.C.

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 he is “proposing to make available the lower 45 MHz” of the 5.9 GHz band “for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi.”

Industry stakeholders can provide comments online about whether Wi-Fi and C-V2X should be supported by the current makeup of the 5.9 GHz band. The FCC will also hold a meeting on Thursday (Dec. 12) at the FCC building in Washington, D.C. The meeting is open to the public but the agenda does not include time for public comment.
Some entities have already publicly voiced opposition.

“ATSSA is committed to reducing fatalities and serious injuries on U.S. roadways and it’s critical to keep the 5.9 GHz spectrum band dedicated to transportation safety to achieve those goals,” ATSSA Vice President of Government Relations Nathan Smith said.

“We believe it’s critical for the federal government to make this a top priority,” he added. “We are only now on the cusp of broad deployment of connected and automated vehicle technology, and because of that, now is not the time to gamble with the safety of the American public. If, as a nation, safety is our top priority, then let’s work together to make certain we put words into practice.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a Nov. 18 letter to Pai 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.
ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt also issued a statement opposing the plan.

“In a country that reels from nearly 36,000 roadway deaths every year, it is unfathomable that the United States would literally give away our top safety tool – and with it, our best chance to save tens of thousands of lives,” Bhatt stated.

“The FCC is prepared to trade safer roads for more connectivity by giving away much of the 5.9GHz safety spectrum, which allows vehicles to talk to each other and the infrastructure (V2X communications) – and it proposes to make such an inexplicable decision in the absence of data. The Commission is prepared to put not just drivers but pedestrians and other vulnerable users, particularly first responders and those in work zones, at grave risk – and for what? It comes down to priorities – we can save and protect people’s lives, or we can ensure its easier to place online orders from our cars. The choice is clear – safety always wins.”

Pai’s full remarks on the new band proposal are available.

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