Ajit Pai's FCC Does Something Good, Frees Wireless Spectrum The Auto Industry Had Done Little With

from the stopped-clocks,-twice-a-day dept

While we've had no shortage of criticism for Ajit Pai's facts-optional, relentless ass kissing of entrenched telecom monopolies, or his wholesale demolition of U.S. consumer protection, his agency has done a good job bringing more wireless spectrum to market. Doing so wasn't particularly controversial, since everybody, consumers to big carriers alike, benefit from having access to more spectrum -- especially valuable middleband spectrum of great use in 5G deployments. Still, it's complicated and warrants kudos in an era when government often can't tie its own shoes correctly.

Last week, the FCC quietly voted unanimously to add 45MHz of spectrum to Wi-Fi to public access, taking it away from an auto industry public safety initiative that failed to materialize over the last 20 years. Spectrum in the 5.850GHz to 5.925GHz range for several decades had been set aside for something called Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), a vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications system that was supposed to warn drivers of traffic dangers. But decades in, 99.9943% of cars still don't have the technology, and many experts had argued this spectrum was better used elsewhere.

Because this spectrum aids his industry BFFs, Pai was keen on moving forward in ensuring this spectrum could be put to better use. Both consumer groups and telecom policy and lobbying groups agreed with the decision, which hasn't happened all that often in the last four years. Public Knowledge counsel Harold Feld, who probably knows more about U.S. spectrum policy than anybody alive, had this to say of the move:

"The addition of 45 MHz of unlicensed spectrum will create a WiFi channel capable of supporting WiFi 6. This will enable wireless providers to dramatically increase the speed and reliability of rural broadband. It will dramatically increase the power of public hotspots and mobile hotspots on which many low-income families rely for access to school and work during the pandemic. Because this relies on already existing technology, the expansion and change to WiFi 6 can happen relatively quickly through software upgrades once the rules become effective."

DSRC services now have to vacate the lower 45MHz within one year. The FCC also set aside around 30MHz for a newer vehicle safety technology dubbed Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X), which the FCC claims will serve the same function using less overall precious spectrum.

The decision wasn't entirely without controversy. The Department of Transit wasn't thrilled, arguing that DSRC tech still could have been useful, that 30 MHz wasn't enough for C-V2X to work ("there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that 30 MHz will suffice to support a safety-driven ecosystem like the one in which DOT and other stakeholders have invested."). The auto industry (which had been accused of "spectrum squatting") understandably opposed the ruling via its various policy organizations. Other critics like Senator Maria Cantwell argued the FCC had been told to pause all controversial decisions during the transition, which is custom.

Still, you'd be hard pressed to find an issue where this FCC and consumer groups align, so progress is progress, even if not everybody's happy with the outcome. Of course, this doesn't make up for Pai's long history of demolishing U.S. consumer protection on behalf of telecom monopolies in fits of lies and rank hypocrisy, but it's still nice to see (most) folks agree on one of his last major decisions as agency boss.

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Filed Under: ajit pai, auto industry, dsrc, fcc, mobile, spectrum, wifi


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 5:05am

    Wait, wait, hold the phone!

    Ajit Pai's FCC Does Something Good

    I refuse to read any further, this article is definitely fake news!

    (I'm being facetious, by the way)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 6:33am

    Ah, so we passed a point where the broken clock was right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2020 @ 7:15am

    so what self-serving purpose has the prick got lined up for it then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 7:19am

    "from the stopped-clocks,-twice-a-day dept" was a very apt short description. But if Pai was a clock he would probably succeed in being right once a day even being stopped. Quantum cronyism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 8:01am

      Re:

      Ajit Pai's not merely a broken 24-hour-clock; he's a broken 24-hour clock with the year, month, and day in the format

      YYYY-MM-DD, hh:mm:ss. That means that he's only right once.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2020 @ 8:24am

        Re: Re:

        actually that format cycles every 10,000 years, if he could some how live that long, he might manage to be correct again (briefly)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2020 @ 11:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          actually that format cycles every 10,000 years

          Nope; ISO 8601 only allows that format (except for the comma, obviously an error) for years 1583 to 9999. Later years can be represented by extra digits, by prior agreement between the parties using the date representation.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 7:41am

    If consumer organizations and telecom giants agree with Ajit Pai's FCC on something it most definitely is not controversial. I was of the impression they couldn't even agree on 1 + 1 = 2.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 8:01am

    Now watch as he somehow finds a way to hand control of it to either an entrenched telecoms player or one of Trump's donors on his way out the door.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 9:26am

      Re:

      More wifi spectrum certainly benefits the telecoms; he's not exactly trying to hide it. It just happens that it's good for the public, too, this time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2020 @ 8:38am

    He seems powerless to do anything. Or he's too... to be the fcc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DeltaBand, 25 Nov 2020 @ 9:33am

    RF Spectrum is Big

    Plenty of options left to much more efficiently allocate RF Spectrum.

    The government and military still retain huge sections of the spectrum just for themselves under ancient allocation decisions.

    All spectrum allocations by the FCC are arbitrary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2020 @ 11:37am

      Re: RF Spectrum is Big

      All spectrum allocations by the FCC are arbitrary.

      They're not. A lot of them are based on sound science, such as the distance signals can propagate in Earth's atmosphere. For example, weather radars work best in certain frequencies, and some unlicensed bands (e.g. for wifi) were chosen because they had too much interference for long-distance licensed services.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        DeltaBand, 25 Nov 2020 @ 4:15pm

        Re: Re: RF Spectrum is Big

        Nope, "sound science" does not dictate FCC frequency allocation choices.

        Any portion of the RF spectrum can be used for a wide variety of purposes.
        Advancing technology and subjective human judgements determine what might be a good use of that complex spectrum at any given time.
        The precise frequency limits and uses set by FCC are totally arbitrary, with no eternal scientific mandate.

        And just how do the FCC wizards deconflict 'weather radars' from the vast number of aviation, military, and industrial microwave systems operating in the very same frequency range?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2020 @ 8:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: RF Spectrum is Big

          I have heard no complaints from any of those sectors about weather radar trashing their pads.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 10:11am

    Use it or lose it

    Other critics like Senator Maria Cantwell argued the FCC had been told to pause all controversial decisions during the transition, which is custom.

    'We're going to play along with Trump's delusions that we have the right and authority to act as police speech online' is controversial. 'You've had decades to use this and haven't, so we're taking it back' is most certainly not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 10:21am

    What are the chances he wakes up and flips a B before he's out of a job?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 25 Nov 2020 @ 12:00pm

    Oh look

    We get a little icing on our shit-Pai.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2020 @ 6:59am

    Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X)

    Sounds like a bunch more IoT datamining crap.

    Can the FCC also reallocate that 30MHz too? Or am I going to need to break out the sharp nail and soldering pin again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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