Press Release Rural Broadband Access

Public Knowledge Applauds FCC Move to Reclaim Spectrum to Connect Rural America

October 27, 2020 , ,

Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he will circulate a draft Order to reclaim 45 MHz from the auto industry to help close the digital divide. In 2004, the agency gave the auto industry 75 MHz of spectrum exclusively for “Dedicated Short-Range Communications” (DSRC) for the purpose of improving public safety. After 20 years of waiting for the industry to deploy DSRC, the FCC will phase out DSRC and replace it with a new, more efficient technology called C-2VX (cellular communication to vehicles (C-V2V) and infrastructure (C-V2I), collectively “C-2VX”). 

Based on the record, the auto industry will require only 30 MHz of spectrum for collision avoidance and safety purposes. Rather than allowing the auto industry to use the remaining 45 MHz of free spectrum for commercial purposes such as location-based advertising, under this proposal the FCC will repurpose 45 MHz for rural broadband and next generation Wi-Fi needed to support telemedicine and other high-bandwidth applications.

The 5.9 GHz band sits next to the existing “unlicensed” spectrum band at 5.8 GHz. Adding the 45 MHz to this band will allow existing equipment to support gigabit Wi-Fi necessary for telemedicine, multiple education streams, and other valuable services. Furthermore, access to this additional spectrum will allow wireless internet service providers in rural areas to dramatically increase the stability and bandwidth of connections to the home. 

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge:

“The proposed FCC Order will save millions of lives by making critical communications services available to all Americans as we prepare for another COVID-19 spike and possible lockdowns. Unlike DSRC, gigabit Wi-Fi and wireless broadband can be deployed nationally with a software update to most existing hardware. As everyone who has lived through the last six months should recognize, we desperately need more and better Wi-Fi as the pandemic forces us to move more of our lives online. 

“For 20 years, DSRC has remained stalled at the starting line. The proposed FCC Order would replace this stale technology with modern, and more efficient, 5G applications. This is a trade that gives Americans a safety upgrade and helps close the digital divide in the bargain.”

Read our latest article, “Safety in Name, Commercial in Fact: The Auto Industry Spectrum Squatting Campaign on 5.9 GHz Widens the Digital Divide,” for more information on how the auto industry prevented spectrum from being used to connect rural America for nearly 20 years.