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Taxpayer Investments and the Safety Band

The Safety Band at 5.850-5.925 GHz (5.9 GHz) is dedicated spectrum that is allocated for transportation safety communications (as one primary user in this band). Federal, state, and local agencies; academia and the research community; and the private sector have invested more than $2.5 billion of taxpayer funds into establishing vehicle-to-everything (V2X) installations that make use of this spectrum in many places across the Nation to address critical transportation problems. V2X communications offer a powerful 360-degree sensing capability of threats and hazards forming in the roadway, including those forming outside of a driver’s line-of-sight. This technology could not only prevent a significant number of crashes, but also enhance the safety and mobility of our Nation’s transportation system.

The potential benefits that these V2X projects will bring to our communities, and the financial investments made are now in jeopardy due to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) February 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to reallocate the spectrum. This move would open over half of the Safety Band’s 75 MHz to use of the spectrum by the unlicensed broadband industry, which will either preclude use of the spectrum by transportation safety or cause interference in the remaining spectrum.  Significant investment in testing V2X communications would need to be repeated if the band plan radically changes and/or transportation must use different spectrum for safety.

Financial Impact of the FCC’s Proposed Band Change

The FCC’s proposed changes will have significant effects on State and local investments, current operations, and private sector investments that total over $2.5 Billion. 

  • To date, more than $1 billion in Federal, State, and local investments of taxpayer funding has been used to establish connected vehicle environments that are operational or will be in the near future. This investment will be lost with this NPRM.
  • The changes will cost State and local governments an additional $550 million or more to make changes to the already-installed equipment. 
  • The V2X research and testing investments of over $750 million will be lost as will the cooperative automated driving systems research investments of approximately $23 million.
  • Over $7 million in university research will be voided as the NPRM will require that the research on advancing connected vehicle environments to incorporate automation, artificial intelligence, and other critical elements of connectivity come to an immediate stop. 

There will also be a significant loss of transportation benefits due to limited spectrum access. U.S. DOT performed projections to account for the possible economic benefits not attained if transportation technologies cannot fully and safely utilize the Safety Band. Without increased safety and crash avoidance that V2X technologies will bring, the Nation stands to lose an additional $16 to $32 trillion on a yearly basis, as crashes will continue to result in fatalities, injuries, and property damage; and there will be no reduction in our currently high levels of public safety and emergency response to these crashes. 

Last updated: Monday, April 20, 2020