Press Release Rural Broadband Access

Public Knowledge Applauds FCC Reclaiming Spectrum to Help Close Digital Divide

November 18, 2020 , , , , ,
newspaper

Today, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted an Order reclaiming the 5.9 GHz spectrum band from the auto industry in order 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-V2X (cellular communication to vehicles (C-V2V) and infrastructure (C-V2I), collectively “C-V2X”).

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 WiFi 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 WiFi 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 at Public Knowledge:

“Today’s FCC action is a win for closing the digital divide, a win for closing the homework gap, and a win for auto safety. The addition of 45 MHz of unlicensed spectrum will create a WiFi channel capable of supporting WiFi 6. This will enable wireless providers to dramatically increase the speed and reliability of rural broadband. It will dramatically increase the power of public hotspots and mobile hotspots on which many low-income families rely for access to school and work during the pandemic. Because this relies on already existing technology, the expansion and change to WiFi 6 can happen relatively quickly through software upgrades once the rules become effective. 

“In addition, the FCC will phase out the outmoded vehicle communication technology selected as the standard 20 years ago and will phase in a modern, more efficient technology requiring substantially less spectrum for collision avoidance and safety. The FCC has quite properly denied the auto industry desire to repurpose the excess spectrum for infotainment, behavioral advertising, and other commercial purposes that rely on collecting more and more of the public’s personal data and information. The auto industry should not be allowed to commercialize spectrum intended for public safety — especially when doing so would come at the expense of tens of millions of Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide and the homework gap.”