US senators introduce bill to expand Wi-Fi spectrum

The legislation directs the FCC to study whether to open up spectrum now designed for intelligent car communications

Two U.S. senators have introduced legislation aimed at expanding the amount of Wi-Fi spectrum available in a band now designated for intelligent vehicle communications, satellite service and amateur radio.

The legislation, announced Friday by Senators Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, would require the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to test the feasibility of opening the upper 5GHz band of spectrum to unlicensed Wi-Fi use.

The WiFi Innovation Act attempts to balance the needs of incumbent users of the 5850-5925MHz band, including growing use of so-called intelligent transportation systems, focused on vehicle safety and traffic information, with a major need for more Wi-Fi spectrum, the senators said in a statement. The bill encourages users of the band to share spectrum if possible, they said.

Smartphone and tablet users are increasingly using Wi-Fi instead of cellular networks to connect to the Internet, and the upper 5GHz band also holds the potential for delivering new broadband service to low-income communities, Booker said in a statement.

"There is a clear and growing demand for increased availability of spectrum," Booker said. "We want to see this valuable resource made available for further use by the public. Not only does access to wireless broadband open the door for innovation and transformative new technologies, it helps bridge the digital divide that leaves too many low-income communities removed from the evolving technology landscape and the growing economic opportunities."

The bill would create a study to examine the barriers to Wi-Fi deployment in low-income areas. It would require the FCC to evaluate incentives and policies that could increase the availability of unlicensed spectrum in low-income neighborhoods.

The bill addresses customer demands for mobile broadband, Rubio added. "To meet the demands of our time, action must be taken to ensure spectrum is utilized effectively and efficiently," he said in a statement. "This bill requires the FCC to conduct testing that would provide more spectrum to the public and ultimately put the resource to better use, while recognizing the future needs and important work being done in intelligent transportation."

With only weeks before the 2014 campaign season kicks into high gear, the bill is unlikely to pass during this session of Congress. The sponsors could reintroduce the bill during the new session of Congress beginning next January.

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America, a trade group, said it supports an effort to explore technical solutions that would allow Wi-Fi devices to operate in the 5.9GHz band "without interfering with these critical safety applications."

The process should happen without "arbitrary deadlines ... or political pressure that could influence the outcome," Scott Belcher, president and CEO of ITS America, said in a statement.

Mobile trade group CTIA, as well as tech trade groups the Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, praised the bill, saying more Wi-Fi spectrum will help meet consumer demand for mobile broadband.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. SenatetelecommunicationmobilelegislationIntelligent Transportation Society of AmericagovernmentCory BookerConsumer Electronics AssociationComputer and Communications Industry AssociationMarco Rubio4gScott BelcherctiaU.S. Federal Communications Commission

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?