Dingell Presses FCC Chairman on Jeopardizing Safety on Roads
Washington, December 12, 2019
Tags: Auto Industry
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell pressed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on his proposed rulemaking allowing the 5.9 GHz band – which had been reserved for vehicle communications technology – to also be used for Wi-Fi use.
“Uncertainty about the future of this band has, for years, undercut the auto sector’s ability to make investment decisions,” Dingell wrote to FCC Chairman Pai. “Recently you released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) for the 5.9 GHz band, which proposes to allocate a majority of the band to unlicensed WiFi while constricting the spectrum available to life-saving transportation safety applications. This proposal raises a number of questions and concerns for me and I would like to understand your rationale for this proposal.”
Currently, the 5.9 GHz band is used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications technology that keeps drivers and passengers safe by communicating to one another about road hazards. The auto industry and auto safety technology companies need certainty to know the innovation and developments they are working on will continue to work on that band without interference/crowding from other signals on the 5.9 GHz band.
On November 20, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao wrote to Chairman Pai saying, “Nonetheless, DOT has significant concerns with the Commission’s proposal, which represents a major shift in the FCC’s regulation of the 5.9 GHz Band and jeopardizes the significant transportation safety benefits that the allocation of this Band was meant to foster.”
In her letter, Dingell citied 120 applications from the Michigan Department of Transportation for licensure on the spectrum. The FCC has frequently argued that “no one is using” the 5.9 GHz band as rational for opening it for other uses.
A copy of the letter is available here and below
Recently you released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) for the 5.9 GHz band, which proposes to allocate a majority of the band to unlicensed WiFi while constricting the spectrum available to life-saving transportation safety applications. This proposal raises a number of questions and concerns for me and I would like to understand your rationale for this proposal.
Uncertainty about the future of this band has, for years, undercut the auto sector’s ability to make investment decisions. Other automakers are eager to make use of this spectrum but remain bound by existing rules. To that end, I am appreciative that the FCC has recognized the contribution that CV2X could make to automotive safety and the allocation of 20 MHz that you propose for it. We can all agree the band requires a fresh approach but one that is designed to unlock – rather than hinder – transportation safety applications that will benefit human health, safety, the environment and economy.
A constant refrain from those who wish to have access to this band is that it remains “fallow,” or unused. You have echoed these sentiments in recent statements, as well as testimony before the Committee on Energy and Commerce. It is of great concern, therefore, to hear from my Governor’s office, that the Michigan Department of Transportation has 120 applications for licensure for new technology that uses this spectrum pending before the FCC. I have also learned that Michigan is not the only state waiting on FCC action. There are approximately 500 such applications pending before the Commission – just for the 5.9 spectrum.
Department of Transportation Secretary Chao also wrote the Commission a letter in which she states that it is, “the Department’s view is that the NPRM, and the substantial shift in direction that it represents, is insufficiently grounded.” She added “it is DOT’s view that the proposal should be withheld from public issuance.” In light of the information about pending applications – among other concerns with the draft proposal – I appreciate her concerns.
The FCC may believe WiFi innovation is more valuable to our nation than the $800 Billion in annual societal impacts from vehicle accidents and fatalities, as well the annual $140 billion cost of congestion. I, however, believe we should embrace and encourage, rather than constrain, the potential of automotive connectivity. To assist me in better understanding the approach that the FCC is potentially taking to reallocate the 5.9 GHz spectrum, please respond to the attached list of questions as soon as possible.
I look forward to your prompt reply,
Member of Congress
DINGELL QUESTIONS FOR FCC CHAIRMAN PAI