Sens. Rubio, Booker Reintroduce WiFi Bill

Legislation Aims At Upper 5 GHz Bands For Unlicensed Use

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Corey Booker (D-N.J.) have reintroduced the Wi-Fi Innovation Act, a bill they first introduced last June as one of a series of bills meant to boost wireless broadband.

The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to test the feasibility of opening up the upper portion of the 5-GHz spectrum band for unlicensed use -- like cable WiFi hot spots.

The bill directs the FCC to "move swiftly" in seeking comment and testing the feasibility of opening the 5850-5925 band for unlicensed; explicitly acknowledges the need to balance that with intelligent transportation systems that operate/will operate in that band; also "establishes a study to examine Wi-Fi deployment in low-income communities and the barriers preventing deployment of wireless networks in low-income neighborhoods" and asks the FCC to look at ways to boost unlicensed availability in those neighborhoods.

The FCC last year freed up unlicensed spectrum in the lower part of the 5 GHz band, and signaled it wants to do so in the upper, so long as it does not interfere with incumbents. That is the comment the bill tries to speed up.

Automaker incumbents in the band are worried that allowing wider unlicensed use threatens interference to car-to-car communications and crash-avoidance systems just coming into their own.