Cable Ops Praise WiFi Legislation

Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Tuesday reintroduced legislation that meant to boost wireless broadband by lighting a fire under an FCC effort to free up spectrum in the upper 5 GHz band for unlicensed WiFi use. That brought plaudits from the cable industry and others, but criticism from automotive interests whose intelligent communications systems already occupying that band.

WiFi hot spots for their fixed service customers have become cable broadband operators' primary broadband mobility play, rather than developing alternate mobile broadband services to the Big Four carriers.

"We congratulate Senators Rubio and Booker on the introduction of Wi-Fi Innovation Act which would secure more unlicensed spectrum in the 5 Ghz band," said the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in a statement. "With more and more WiFi-enabled devices coming to market every day, consumers will continue to need additional spectrum to use these tools. This bipartisan legislation provides a clear path forward for properly allocating a finite and increasingly necessary public resource and continues to establish the U.S. as a global leader in public WiFi availability, speed, and scale."

“We applaud this group of Senators and Representatives for their recognition of the value of unlicensed spectrum in enabling innovation and economic benefits today,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “It’s well understood that more unlicensed spectrum is critical to meet our society’s ongoing requirements for connectivity.”

“We enthusiastically applaud congressional members for taking a bipartisan and bicameral approach toward increasing speeds and easing congestion for WiFi by identifying new spectrum for unlicensed uses," said Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro. “Unlicensed spectrum is a catalyst for innovation, how we get online through WiFi and how our wireless carriers manage the ever-growing traffic on their networks. And unlicensed spectrum is a boon to the U.S. economy, generating $62 billion a year."

It was how to manage the traffic on the roadways that was of concern to Thomas Kerns, president of ITS America-the High Tech Transportation Association, whose group opposes the legislation.

“We are on the cusp of a revolution in vehicle safety that will save thousands of lives each year and dramatically reduce the nearly $1 trillion cost of traffic crashes and congestion to families, communities and the nation’s economy," he said. "Experts from the automotive, WiFi and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) industries are working together to explore whether a spectrum sharing technology can be developed to allow WiFi devices to operate in the same 5.9 GHz band set aside by the FCC for ITS safety systems without delaying time-critical communications needed to prevent crashes. This collaborative process should continue without Congressionally-imposed deadlines, restrictive parameters or political pressure that creates regulatory uncertainty and could delay bringing these life-saving crash prevention technologies to consumers.”

He said that his members and others, including AAA, had sent letters to members of Congress asking them to oppose the bill.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.