The days of slogging through the internet via slow Wi-Fi at a packed Starbucks while you nurse your latte may be coming to an end.
Noting that “Wi-Fi has become a staple of everyday life,” Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai in a speech Tuesday revealed a plan to open up the wireless spectrum to relieve crowded internet activity via Wi-Fi and foster the development of “new automotive communications technology.”
In plain language, Pai’s plan revolves around the 5.9 GHz band, which was reserved for the auto industry for vehicle-to-vehicle communications and the development of safety-related technology. The car industry has had access to this spectrum for nearly two decades and “has been slow to invest in and develop products,” according to former FCC staffer Ari Fitzgerald.
“After 20 years of seeing these prime airwaves go largely unused, the time has come for the FCC to take a fresh look at the 5.9 GHz band,” said Pai.
So the band will essentially be split with a part dedicated to continued development in the automotive sector and part for improved Wi-Fi access.
“Wi-Fi has become a staple of everyday life. It binds together all our phones and laptops,” said Pai. “It has become a foundational technology for the Internet of Things, connecting our TVs, thermostats, baby monitors, refrigerators, washing machines, toys and even toilets. It drives basic consumer decisions, like where to reserve a hotel room.”
Earlier this week, Pai also said he would push for a public auction of airwaves currently used by satellite companies (the so-called C-band spectrum) for new fifth-generation wireless networks that will, among other things, increase the internet speeds on mobile devices.
A vote on both these matters could take place during the FCC's next Open Meeting on Dec. 12.