WiFi Friends

WASHINGTON — Cable operators are getting an assist from Congress in their push for more WiFi spectrum.

The bipartisan leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee said they will meet with the FCC, Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation to discuss how “to safely increase unlicensed access to the 5.9 GHz band without harming the existing work being done to improve auto safety through Intelligent Transportation Systems.”

Look for the first meetings by midsummer, a committee source said. The committee is wading into the issue of freeing up unlicensed wireless spectrum in the upper 5 GHz band while still protecting intelligent automotive systems.

The FCC has been studying whether or not cable’s unlicensed WiFi can share the spectrum roadway with vehicle- to-vehicle (V2V) communications – such as crash-avoidance systems – that are licensed users of the 5.9 GHz band. The FCC thinks they can co-exist. Car companies want the FCC to err on the side of caution.

Calling for the meetings were committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), communications subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

Cable operators have been pushing for more 5 GHz spectrum to fuel their WiFi hotspots, the industry’s primary mobile broadband play.

In February, Sens. Marco Rubio (RFla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the WiFi Innovation Act.

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.