The National Safety Council (NSC) says it is seriously concerned by the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) decision to vote on a proposal to limit the amount of spectrum available for safety in the 5.9 GHz band – a band reserved for transportation safety advancements and technologies.

According to a statement by the NSC: “This is a short-sighted decision with long-term adverse safety implications. Worse, this policy would put conveniences above safety, and that is always a losing game.

The consequences "could be severe"

“Forty thousand people died in 2018 on American roadways. Forty thousand died the year before. How many more people need to die in crashes to help FCC commissioners understand that support for this proposal will cost lives? Technology to advance safety has the potential to save thousands of lives each year, and having dedicated spectrum allows transportation industry players to test promising services without the threat of harmful interference from Wi-Fi users. Should interference happen – which is a risk if the spectrum is split – the consequences could be severe.”

Growing consumer demand

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said making the lower 45 MHz of the band available for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi will help meet growing consumer demand. Pai's proposal includes allocating the upper 20 MHz of the band for a new automotive communications technology that would use cellular protocols to provide direct communications between vehicles and infrastructure like light poles, cyclists, pedestrians, and road workers.

"We also propose to make an additional 10 megahertz available for transportation-related communications, for a total of 30 megahertz, and invite comment on whether it should be used for DSRC or C-V2X," said Pai. "If adopted, my new plan for this band would make far more productive use of this spectrum, and would deliver far more value to American consumers, than the status quo."

The NSC is calling on commissioners to reject Pai's proposal. “Sharing or rechannelizing the 5.9 GHz band could nullify progress already made, unnecessarily delay implementation, devalue prior 5.9 GHz technology investment and, most critically, could lead to the unnecessary loss of lives.”

NSC and some of its partner organizations wrote the FCC about the risk of allowing other Wi-Fi users to use the 5.9 GHz band dedicated for transportation safety. You can read that letter here.