Republicans and Democrats joined in a bipartisan effort to re-introduce companion bills in both chambers of Congress on Tuesday that would promote deployment of unlicensed Wi-Fi operations in the 5 GHz band with protections to avoid harmful interference to incumbent connected vehicle applications that include intelligent transportation systems (ITS).
In the House, sponsors of the Wi-Fi Innovation Act include Representatives Bob Latta (R-OH), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA). A nearly identical version of the legislation bearing the same title was introduced simultaneously in the Senate with the backing of Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Resurrecting legislation that was introduced last summer but failed to advance before the end of the 113th Congress, both bills would require the FCC to conduct tests to determine if unlicensed Wi-Fi devices could use the 5850-5925 MHz band without interference to ITS, dedicated short-range communications, and other incumbent operations. Specifically, both bills would give the FCC three months to solicit comment on interference mitigation techniques and deployment timelines, six months to publish a test plan, and 15 months to conduct tests and publish test results. If the FCC determines that unlicensed Wi-Fi operations in the 5 GHz band would not interfere with incumbent licensees, the agency would have 18 months under the Senate bill and 24 months under the House bill to modify its rules to enable “widespread commercial deployment of unlicensed operations.” Both bills would also require the FCC to prepare a report within one year on “the availability of broadband Internet access using unlicensed spectrum and wireless networks in low income neighborhoods.”
Applauding the bill, Jot Carpenter, the vice president of government affairs for wireless association CTIA, predicted that “freeing additional spectrum in the 5 GHz band will help meet Americans’ increasing demand for mobile Internet access and support the growth of the Internet of Things.” Along a similar vein, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association declared that the legislation “provides a clear path forward for properly allocating a finite and increasingly necessary public resource.” Stressing that “experts from the automotive, Wi-Fi and [ITS] industries are working together to explore whether a spectrum sharing technology can be developed to allow Wi-Fi devices to operate in the same 5.9 GHz band set aside by the FCC for ITS safety systems,” an official of ITS America cautioned, “this collaborative process should continue without Congressionally-imposed deadlines.”