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FCC chairman Ajit Pai and commissioners testify before Congress, Dec. 5. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to take a swath of airwaves long set aside for auto safety and open it up for WiFi and other uses.

The big picture: The FCC's proposal comes over the objections of the Department of Transportation. It wanted to preserve the 5.9 GHz band for car-to-car communications aimed at preventing crashes and eventually managing traffic once self-driving and semi-autonomous vehicles hit the roads.

Driving the news: The FCC asks for comment on its plan to divvy up the airwaves, 75 MHz in total. It plans to open 45 MHz for unlicensed use like WiFi and set aside 30 megahertz for auto safety tech.

  • All 75 MHz of spectrum was set aside 20 years ago for a type of vehicle safety communications that the auto industry never delivered.
  • Under the proposal, the FCC may leave some of the 30 MHz chunk of airwaves open to that earlier proposed tech. Or it may designate that whole swath for a new type of so-called "cellular-vehicle-to-everything" technology.
  • Cable companies and WiFi advocates have been pushing for access to the airwaves, while Ford and the 5G Automotive Association want to use the spectrum for the new tech.

What they're saying: Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who have long called for action on 5.9 GHz, welcomed the vote.

  • But the Department of Transportation still has "significant concerns" with the proposal, a spokesperson said.
  • The department wants to keep this part of the spectrum reserved for auto safety and let the market determine what technology ends up providing communications toward that end.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment from the Department of Transportation.

Go deeper

Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.

National Archives releases Trump White House records to Jan. 6 panel

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The National Archives on Thursday evening released records of former President Trump's White House to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, the agency said.

Why it matters: The committee now has documents that Trump attempted to keep hidden, arguing that their release would undermine his executive privilege.