November 18, 2020

T&I Committee Leaders Criticize Final FCC Vote to Reallocate Part of 5.9 GHz Spectrum Band

Chair DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves join safety advocates, the U.S. Department of Transportation and state transportation agencies in all 50 states in expressing serious concerns over FCC plan to share “safety band” spectrum with unlicensed operations.

Washington, D.C. — Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Sam Graves (R-MO) criticized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for finalizing its proposal to reallocate more than half of the 5.9 gigahertz (GHz) radio frequency band (or Safety Band) for unlicensed use, such as Wi-Fi. Additionally, the FCC proposal “chooses” the Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology standard over the longstanding, proven Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) standard—directly going against the auto industry’s market-based solution and creating uncertainty for the tens of thousands of DSRC equipped vehicles and devices in use today.   
“Today’s FCC vote is a gift to corporate interests at the expense of public safety. It’s highly disappointing the FCC chose to look past multiple concerns raised over the past year by a bipartisan coalition of T&I Committee members, numerous transportation agencies and advocates, and even Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao,” Chair DeFazio said. “By redistributing spectrum for corporate interests, the FCC jeopardizes ongoing efforts to modernize our transportation systems with emerging technologies that reduce congestion, cut carbon pollution, and critically, make our streets safer for everyone. Additionally, the FCC—which does not have expertise in transportation safety—has prematurely chosen a winner in the DSRC vs. C-V2X transportation safety debate. This unnecessary ruling will undermine decades of development and over a billion public dollars that the transportation community has invested in these technologies. While today’s vote is unfortunate, we are urging GAO for further study and will keep fighting this decision with all the tools at our disposal.” 
“States, localities, and many stakeholders employ and continue to develop new uses for this critical spectrum that has been reserved specifically for transportation safety and infrastructure, but now the FCC’s action will unnecessarily set back advancements and delay the real-world application of innovations that can save lives, like connected vehicle technologies,” said Ranking Member Graves.
In 1999, the FCC reserved the entire 5.9 GHz spectrum band for advanced vehicle safety technologies that enabled cars to communicate with other connected vehicles as well as “smart infrastructure” devices such as connected traffic signals. These technologies have reduced crashes and improved the flow of traffic, and their further deployment in the near future will transform our surface transportation system. Should the FCC’s proposal go into effect, current vehicle safety technologies will be undermined, and the future deployment of such technologies may be stifled for decades due to the lack of “safety band” spectrum availability.

Additional Background:
In November 2019, DeFazio sent a letter to the Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai to express his serious concern over the FCC’s plans to sell off part of the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum band and open the 5.9 GHz spectrum band to commercial and private interests. To learn more, click here.
In January 2020, DeFazio, Graves, and 36 Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sent a letter to the FCC to raise serious concerns with the agency’s plan to redirect more than half the 5.9 GHz spectrum band. To learn more, click here.
In October 2020, DeFazio and Graves sent a letter to U.S. Government Accountability Office Comptroller General Gene Dodaro requesting the agency conduct a study into the safety implications of sharing more than half of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band. To learn more, click here.