MAASTO officials call for FCC reversal on transportation safety decision

Nov. 3, 2020

Leaders say FCC should preserve broadcast band currently devoted to transportation safety

Leaders of the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should preserve a broadcast band currently devoted to transportation safety instead of converting it to Wi-Fi use.

“As connected and automated vehicles come on line, this broadcast spectrum will be vital to keep both motorists and pedestrians safe,” Craig Thompson, MAASTO president and Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation, said in a statement. “Industry is already developing technology that will use this band for safety applications. Diverting it to Wi-Fi won’t have much of an impact on Wi Fi availability, but it may very well end up in unnecessary injury and death.”

Thompson said he supports U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao’s calls for the FCC to reconsider the pending decision.  News organizations have reported on a letter Secretary Chao sent to the FCC in which she called the changes “fatally flawed” and would put efforts to use connected vehicle technology “in peril."

The FCC proposal would shift 30 MHz of the 75 MHz reserved for Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) to enable a different automotive communications technology called cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X), while shifting the other 45 MHz to Wi-Fi use. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission will vote Nov. 18 to finalize the plan.

“The Ohio Department of Transportation strongly supports U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s position that the 5.9 GHz spectrum should continue to be preserved for transportation safety technology,” Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio DOT and a member of the MAASTO board, said in a statement. “In the Buckeye State, we are ready to deploy 5.9 GHz-linked CAV technology along a 35-mile stretch of U.S. 33 which connects East Liberty, Ohio to Marysville, Ohio and Dublin, Ohio—for the express purpose of making our roadways safer for motorists and pedestrians. If the utilization of the 5.9 GHz spectrum in transportation infrastructure can help save one life in Ohio or anywhere in the nation, it will be more than worth holding it from auction."

MAASTO’s mission is to foster the development, operation, and maintenance of an integrated and balanced transportation system that adequately serves the transportation needs of its member states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio. It is affiliated with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).