FCC Chairman Pai has included an item on the November 18th meeting agenda to free up a slice of spectrum for public use. No longer will it continue to be hoarded by the federal government and left unused.

The spectrum in question is the 5.9 band which has been held for more than twenty years by the Department of Transportation based on a continuing promise to use the band to create an automated vehicle safety system. Putting aside that the government should not be in the business of creating industry, the system never came into being for commercial use. Decades later, the world has well moved on from the big government dreams of 1999.

Today, automated cars are being designed and deployed that do not depend on wi-fi. Instead, a number of onboard technologies guide the vehicle, not least of which are cameras, radar and lidar. Apparently, there was little industry, much less market, interest in a car dependent on an external system of steady and strong wi-fi for its guidance and safety.

So for two decades the government controlled wi-fi spectrum has sat fallow, not used for auto safety, unused for consumers, not even used for a bad idea.

The Chairman has proposed that the 5.9 spectrum band finally be freed. This would make available additional, and much needed, capacity for wi-fi. The item should be approved with bi-partisan support given statements and actions in the past by the FCC commissioners.

Specifically, if approved, the proposal would create a slice of the 5.9 band immediately available for indoor wi-fi and also portion off another slice for a more market driven vehicle safety technical standard that already has broad industry support. The FCC would make available more wi-fi and greater safety in the same vote.

Inventors and creators should not have to be concerned about the government creating a system to compete with their inventions. And twenty years seems much longer than too long for consumers to be denied the use of those precious airwaves to improve their wireless lives. The Chairman’s proposal frees those airwaves and finally delivers a real measure of additional safety for automated vehicles. Now the FCC just has to vote to provide these wins to the American people.

Innovation Economy Alliance