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IPI Files Comments in Support of FCC 5.9 GHz Rulemaking

Today, the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the FCC’s 5.9 GHz proceeding.

If you’re into that sort of thing, that’s all you need to know. If you have no idea what that is about, the rest of this is for you.

Spectrum is a limited resources, and these days is in more demand than ever. Broadcast TV and radio, wireless phones, Wi-Fi, baby monitors, home security devices, first responder communications, military and satellite applications—and scores more things all use wireless spectrum. And because there seems no end of demand for spectrum, policymakers have recognized that it could get crowded.

That’s why the FCC has for years been identifying bands of unused and underused spectrum so that it could be repurposed for more efficient use. Oh, and because it is auctioned off, that’s more revenue for the federal government.

In recent years spectrum belonging to television broadcasters and satellite companies has been auctioned and repurposed to obtain more spectrum for wireless phones.

But it turns out, the biggest hoarder of unused and underused spectrum is the federal government itself. Many agencies have been allocated spectrum, and much of this spectrum has been left idle or underused for decades. A lot, but not all, has been reserved by the military, and eventually some of that is going to have to be clawed back as well.

In 1999 a block of spectrum was allocated to the Department of Transportation (DOT) to be used for future smart cars to be able to talk with each other, with the goal of increased public safety. The DOT came up with a plan called Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) for cars to communicate with each other and coordinate with each other.

Well, fine. Except that for the last 20 years, almost nothing has been done with this important band of spectrum. Meanwhile, it has become clear that autonomous vehicles aren’t going to be safer because they are dependent on communications with all the other vehicles around them – they are going to be safer because they are autonomous and independent. Creating a system of dependencies just doesn’t make sense—it probably makes such cars more vulnerable in that it could create a false sense of security.

So the FCC essentially wants to take part of the 5.9 GHz spectrum away from the DOT. Can you predict how the DOT might respond to such a request?

Yeah, you’re right. Huge, ugly turf battle between Elaine Chao (Sec. of Transportation) and Ajit Pai (Chairman of FCC). Except that the FCC has final say over such things.

The best use of the 5.9 GHz spectrum is to leave a little bit of it with DOT and see if they come up with something useful to do with it, while making most of it available for more efficient uses. And that is what the FCC’s proceeding is about, and it’s why IPI filed comments today in support of the FCC’s proceeding.

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