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Transportation and data service providers battle for bandwidth

Jessica Wehrman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Science & Technology News

WASHINGTON -- Two big industries are fighting over radio frequencies that each could use to provide game-changing services.

On one side is the transportation industry, including auto and truck makers and their suppliers. The frequencies would allow smart vehicles of the near future to talk to each other to use roadways more efficiently and avoid collisions.

On the other are providers of mobile data, like wireless phone services and cable television companies, which could use the bandwidth to make high-speed internet access ubiquitous.

In the middle is the Federal Communications Commission, which two decades ago reserved the frequencies for transportation safety purposes but is now considering if that was such a good idea.

In May, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a speech to the Wi-Fi World Congress that it was time to "take a fresh look" at that band on the spectrum of radio frequencies (specifically, 75 megahertz of the 5.9 gigahertz band).

At least three other members of the five-member commission -- Jessica Rosenworcel, Geoffrey Starks and Michael O'Rielly -- have expressed similar views.

 

But while the telecommunications industry expected Pai to put the change on the FCC agenda soon after that speech, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asked him to hold off.

Both industry groups have been in limbo ever since.

The Wi-Fi advocates say transportation hasn't taken full advantage of the 5.9 GHz band, which they call the key to unlocking the next generation of high-speed internet access.

"This is 75 megahertz of prime spectrum," says Ellen Satterwhite, a spokeswoman for WiFiForward, an advocate for opening up the spectrum.

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