Over 20 years ago, the FCC allocated airwaves in the 5.9 GHz frequency band for a service called DSRC that was supposed to help cars “talk” to infrastructure and each other, alerting drivers if they were going to hit something. Unfortunately, after two decades—an eternity, considering the other automotive safety innovation we’ve seen—DSRC has barely been deployed, meaning this spectrum has been largely unused. Many think that this spectrum should be repurposed for use by Wi-Fi.
To address this issue, we brought together an ad hoc, broad-based group of companies, organizations and public sector institutions into a coalition called WifiForward. We had to change the narrative and show policymakers, press and influencers that Wi-Fi means more than cat videos, that unused airwaves are bad for consumers and that auto safety tech has leapfrogged past that 20-year experiment of DSRC.
After years of work on the issue, we got word that the FCC might move forward to reallocate the 5.9 GHz band. So we got to work on an event to celebrate Wi-Fi and to paint a picture of a future in which Wi-Fi spectrum was abundant.
On November 20, 2019, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the opening of a proceeding to open these airwaves for Wi-Fi. Even better—it happened at our event.
We hosted A Full Spectrum Future: Smart Policy for America’s Airwaves with WifiForward, Citizens Against Government Waste and New America's Open Technology at the Long View Gallery. With less than two weeks’ notice, Glen Echo Group secured a venue, assembled top-tier speakers and panelists and invited guests. And, in front of a packed crowd of telecom heavy-hitters and press, Chairman Pai introduced the proceeding on 5.9 GHz.