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Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai offered a path forward Wednesday for the cable industry to gain access to airwaves for WiFi in a long-running spectrum battle with automakers.

The big picture: Car companies and cable providers have been feuding over a swath of spectrum that was set aside 20 years ago for vehicle safety communications but never widely used for that purpose.

  • The cable industry and WiFi advocates want to use those airwaves for super-speedy WiFi as consumer demand increases amid connected devices.
  • The auto industry says the spectrum should be used for vehicle safety.

Driving the news: Pai's proposal, to be voted on at the commission's Dec. 12 meeting, would allocate the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed use such as WiFi, while setting aside up to 30 megahertz for vehicle safety technology.

  • "We are well past the point where American consumers should accept significant additional delays in putting this spectrum to work for them," Pai said at a Wednesday event hosted by Citizens Against Government Waste, New America's Open Technology Institute and WifiForward.
  • The technology that airwaves originally were designated for — Dedicated Short-Range Communications, or DSRC — has not been fully deployed across all vehicles, which is what needs to happen to allow cars to "talk" to each other.
  • Instead, a coalition of automakers (including Ford) and telecom companies is pushing a new technology for the band, which they call cellular-vehicle-to-everything. Pai said his proposal would allow that technology in the upper 20 megahertz, and seeks comment on whether to allocate the remaining 10 megahertz to that tech or the older DSRC.

Flashback: Pai announced the agency would consider repurposing the airwaves in a speech in May, but delayed the plans after pushback from Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (R) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.

4 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

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