Wi-Fi Innovation Act would expand use of unlicensed 5-GHz spectrum

Bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Booker and Rubio would open up the 5850-5925-MHz band.

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Recently United States Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced S. 2505, the Wi-Fi Innovation Act, which, according to a statement issued by Senator Booker’s office, would “expand unlicensed spectrum use by requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test the feasibility of opening the upper 5-GHz band to unlicensed use.

“At a time when demand for spectrum is drastically increasing, the legislation aims to provide more of this valuable resource to the public to bolster innovation, spur economic development, and increase connectivity,” the statement said.

Booker commented, “There is a clear and growing demand for increased availability of spectrum. Senator Rubio and I came together on this legislation because 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. Our bill also authorized an important study of Wi-Fi deployment in low-income communities and the barriers preventing deployment of wireless broadband in those neighborhoods.”

Rubio added, “In a century defined by drastic and colossal technological advancement, it is hard going even a day without using our cell phones, tablets and other wireless devices. Access to mobile broadband enhances our daily lives, facilitating quality work and timely communication. But our wireless devices rely on spectrum—a valuable and limited resource. To meet the demands of our time, action must be taken to ensure spectrum is utilized effectively and efficiently.

“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,” Rubio continued. “I am pleased that Senator Booker has joined me in this effort to foster the innovation and economic growth needed to make this century another American century.”

The act directs the FCC to move swiftly in seeking comments and conducting testing to assess the feasibility of opening the 5850- to 5925-MHz band to unlicensed use, the statement explained. Further, the act recognizes the need to balance the importance of development intelligent transportation and incumbent licensees in the 5-GHz band, while also maximizing the use of the band for shared purposes. Additionally, it established a study to examine Wi-Fi deployment in low-income communities and the barriers that prevent deployment of wireless networks in low-income neighborhoods. According to the bill, the FCC also will evaluate incentives and policies that could increase the availability of unlicensed spectrum in low-income neighborhoods to increase adoption in those communities.

Among the supporters of the bill is the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), whose president, Grant Seiffert, issued the following statement: “At a time of exponential growth in demand for wireless spectrum, increased use of unlicensed technologies such as Wi-Fi is vital to alleviate the spectrum crunch. In the upper-5-GHz band, the wireless industry has been working collaboratively with the FCC and the auto industry. TIA remains confident that any potential interference issues can be successfully resolved in a manner that enables increased use of the band for technologies such as Wi-Fi while not compromising the efficacy or safety of potential intelligent transportation uses of the band.

“By encouraging the FCC to move swiftly in conducting testing, the legislation holds the promise of creating a win-win scenario that allows this valuable spectrum resource to be used more efficiently,” Seiffert continued. “TIA and its members look forward to continuing work with Senators Rubio and Booker, the FCC, and the auto industry in the months ahead.”

A copy of the bill is available for reading and downloading from Senator Rubio’s website, here.

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