CAGW Files Reply Comments with the FCC in the 5.9 GHz Proceeding | Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Files Reply Comments with the FCC in the 5.9 GHz Proceeding

Agency Comments

Before the Federal Communications Commission

In the Matter of Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band

ET Docket No. 19-138

Reply Comments of
Thomas A. Schatz
Citizens Against Government Waste

April 27, 2020

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating the American public about waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in government.  On behalf of the more than 1.2 million members and supporters of CAGW, I offer the following comments in the matter of Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band (ET Docket No. 19-138).

On December 12, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz spectrum band, proposing to allow for 45 MHz of this band to be used for unlicensed devices, and 30 MHz of the band to be allocated for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) band.[1]  The FCC proposed to divide the ITS portion of the band into two use cases.  The top 20 MHz was proposed for the exploration and development of Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) and the FCC inquired whether the remaining 10 MHz should be retained for continued use of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) systems or future development of other uses if DSRC no longer remained in use.

CAGW has long maintained that public resources like the 5.9 GHz band should be maximized to their fullest potential.  The entire 75 MHz of spectrum at 5.9 GHz is currently designated for the sole use of DSRC as part of the ITS.  Because DSRC was never fully deployed, despite having access to the spectrum for more than 20 years, and any new uses of this spectrum band required a rule change plus special permission from the FCC even for testing, exploration of new automotive vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications and other non-V2V uses has been limited, and the spectrum band has remained severely underutilized. 

The proposals being considered by the FCC will expand the use of this band to its fullest potential, including allowing 45 MHz of spectrum to be used for unlicensed purposes such as Wi-Fi.  The FCC considered during its deliberations the economic value of opening a portion of this band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use.  A study by Columbia University Professor Dr. Raul Katz released on April 13 suggests that authorizing Wi-Fi use in the lower 45 MHz of the 5.9 GHz band would provide approximately $23 billion to U.S. gross domestic product between 2022 to 2025.  He also indicated that this unlicensed use would provide an additional $5.1 billion in total consumer surplus between 2020 and 2025.[2]

The Ford Motor Company in its March 9, 2020 filing expressed the company’s view on the safety applications and benefits that could result from allocating the 5.850 to 5.925 spectrum band to be used for the development of C-V2X technologies.  The filing advocates the reservation of the entire 75 MHz of spectrum for C-V2X technology to allegedly avoid potential interference and claims that this amount of spectrum would harmonize the U.S. with other countries.[3] 

The harmonization claim is unfounded and inaccurate.  As noted by Tom Struble of R Street, this request “is more spectrum than any other country has allocated for vehicle-safety services in the 5.9 GHz band.”[4]  He added that to truly harmonize vehicle-safety services using C-V2X technology, the allocation in the NPRM is sufficient to meet the needs of the automotive industry.

Other commenters have also asked that the entire 75 MHz of this band be retained as the ITS band, suggesting that transmissions from unlicensed devices in the lower 45 MHz would cause harmful interference to existing or future ITS deployments.[5]  This assertion seems self-contradictory, since the 5.9 GHz band already sits in between the existing U-NII-3 unlicensed band in the 5.725 to 5.850 GHz range and the 1,200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz range allocated for shared unlicensed use by the FCC on April 23, 2020.[6]  If automakers claim they can design their systems to work in all 75 MHz with unlicensed users on either side, those systems should work in 30 MHz with unlicensed users on either side. 

If, on the other hand, the automotive industry’s claims about harmful interference from unlicensed devices are accurate, then they are likely to experience such interference even in today’s existing environment and the FCC should therefore be evaluating whether the 5.9 GHz spectrum band is the best location for ITS technologies.  Perhaps it would be more appropriate to move these services to the 4.9 GHz band, as others have suggested,[7] or the 77 GHz band, which are already being used for public safety and automotive radar applications, respectively. 

Other commenters have asked the FCC to delay the proceeding to enable more testing within the band.[8]  The 5.9 GHz band has been tied up and underutilized for more than 20 years. CAGW strongly urges the FCC to act as quickly as possible to release the lower 45 MHz of this band for unlicensed use and allow automotive innovation, including C-V2X, in the upper 30 MHz.  Further government testing focused on unlicensed devices and DSRC sharing the same channels would simply waste taxpayer resources. 

Unlicensed Wi-Fi enables American consumers, small businesses, factories, and warehouses to connect and to do business every day.  During the coronavirus pandemic, Wi-Fi has enabled tens of millions of Americans to work and learn remotely and operate many devices at the same time on their home networks.  Designating the lower 45 MHz of the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed use can help address an immediate need for capacity, as evidenced by the FCC’s action to permit expanded use by Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPS) to enable broadband communications in rural areas of the country.[9]  The WISPS plan to turn this spectrum around and deploy it to customers quickly using existing equipment, demonstrating the value of moving forward and adopting the NRPM proposal.

CAGW recognizes the importance of automobile safety applications.  However, should the FCC decide to allocate all of the spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for ITS technology, automotive companies are likely to take advantage of this opportunity and develop non-safety applications, including automobile entertainment systems that would utilize the spectrum to connect to the new 5G networks.  Good spectrum policy requires that the FCC only give away spectrum for free, without an auction or sharing requirements, if it will be used for a public purpose such as public safety.  Non-safety, commercial uses like infotainment, which could result in accidents due to distracted driving and thereby impair public safety, should not take place in the spectrum reserved in the 5.9 GHz band for ITS. 

CAGW urges the FCC to adopt the reasonable compromise proposal set forth in the NPRM, which would designate 45 MHz of spectrum adjacent to the existing U-NII-3 band to be used for unlicensed devices, 20 MHz of spectrum for C-V2X technology, and the remaining 10 MHz of spectrum for use of DSRC technology.  This allocation will more closely align the U.S. spectrum allocation for ITS with that of other countries and allow for the expansion of unlicensed uses in the lower portion of the bands that will be critical to the deployment of Wi-Fi 6 technology and 5G networks.


[1] Federal Communications Commission, In the Matter of the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band, ET Docket No. 19-138, Adopted December 12, 2019,

[2] Raul Katz, “Assessing the Economic Value of Unlicensed Use in the 5.9 GHz and 6 GHz Bands,” Telecom Advisory Services, LLC and WIFI Forward, April 2020,

[3] Comments of Ford Motor Company on the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band, March 9, 2020,

[4] Tom Struble, “R Street Comments on the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band),” March 9, 2020,

[5] Comments of the 5G Automotive Association on the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band, March 9, 2020,; Comments of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation on the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band, March 9, 2020,

[6] Federal Communications Commission, “FCC Adopts New Rules for the 6 GHz Band, Unleashing 1,200 Megahertz of Spectrum for Unlicensed Use,” ET Docket No. 18-295; GN Docket No. 17-183, April 23, 2020,

[7] Comments of New America’s Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge on the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band, March 9, 2020,; Comments of Dynamic Spectrum Alliance on the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band, March 9, 2020,

[8] Comments of General Motors LLC on the Use of the 5.850 to 5.925 GHz Band, March 9, 2020,

[9] Monica Alleven, “FCC Gives WISPS Access to 5.9 GHz for COVID-19 Response,” Fierce Wireless, March 27, 2020,

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