FCC Votes to Split Safety Spectrum with Telecoms Over Transportation Chief’s Warning

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday 5-0 to advance the plan to split a block of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band that was reserved in 1999 for automakers to develop technology to allow vehicles to talk to each other, but has so far gone largely unused.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the proposal was a “balanced approach” that “maximizes the value of the band for the American people. And it would do far more for both automotive safety and Wi-Fi than the status quo.”

But U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao warned the FCC decision could result in “thousands more deaths annually on road and millions more injuries than would be the case otherwise.”

Major cable, telecom and content companies back the FCC proposal to open most of the spectrum band to Wi-Fi use.

But nearly all automakers oppose the proposal. Instead, they favor using the spectrum for developing technology to allow vehicles to exchange data about location, speed and direction.