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

Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.

Trump, McConnell to move fast to replace Ginsburg

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump will move within days to nominate his third Supreme Court justice in just three-plus short years — and shape the court for literally decades to come, top Republican sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are ready to move to confirm Trump's nominee before Election Day, just 46 days away, setting up one of the most consequential periods of our lifetimes, the sources say.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 30,393,591 — Total deaths: 950,344— Total recoveries: 20,679,272Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 6,722,699 — Total deaths: 198,484 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.