Press Release

Public Knowledge Files Amicus Brief Urging Court to Uphold FCC 5.9 GHz Decision

October 21, 2021
newspaper

Yesterday, Public Knowledge filed an amici curiae brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s review of the ITS America v. FCC lawsuit. The suit seeks to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s November 2020 decision to reclaim the 5.9 GHz spectrum band from the auto industry in order to help close the digital divide.

In 1999, the FCC gave the auto industry 75 MHz of spectrum exclusively for “Dedicated Short-Range Communications” (DSRC) for the purpose of improving public safety. After more than 20 years of waiting for the industry to deploy DSRC, in 2020 the FCC approved an Order to 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”).

As explained in the brief, the auto industry will still be able to utilize 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, the FCC Order repurposes 45 MHz for rural broadband and next generation Wi-Fi.

Because 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 Kathleen Burke, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The Commission’s decision to stop bankrolling the auto industry’s speculation on Intelligent Transportation Services that are still in development after more than 20 years was the right call.

“Since 1999, when the Commission first authorized ITS licenses, technology has significantly changed and so have the public interest demands on our nation’s airwaves. New automotive technologies have anteed up, delivering the public safety solutions that ITS promised but did not deliver. This allows for further use of spectrum to support the Wi-Fi based technologies that are so essential to nearly every aspect of modern life.

“Reallocating 45 megahertz of underutilized spectrum to unlicensed uses will provide tangible benefits for consumers. It enables more affordable internet access, particularly in rural and underserved areas; provides additional capacity to mobile services to offload data on overly congested wireless airwaves; and, when combined with adjacent spectrum, will usher in next generation Wi-Fi technology capable of supporting telemedicine, distance learning, and other valuable services.

“By appealing the FCC’s Order, ITS Licensees and their supporters are simply trying to chase their losses to court—a play we hope the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will see right through.”