Why is Comcast Using Self-driving Cars To Justify Abolishing Net Neutrality?

Earlier this week, Comcast filed its comments in favor of the FCC’s plan to eliminate the 2015 net neutrality rules. While much of the document was devoted to arguments we’ve heard before — Comcast believes the current rules are anti-competitive and hurt investment, but generally supports the principles of net neutrality — one statement stood out. The Verge adds: Buried in the 161-page document was this quirky assertion (emphasis ours): “At the same time, the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public… And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it. In other words, Comcast is arguing for paid prioritization and internet fast lanes to enable self-driving cars to communicate better with other vehicles and their surrounding environment, thus making them a safer and more efficient mode of transportation. The only problem is that autonomous and connected cars don’t use wireless broadband to communicate. When cars talk with each other, they do it by exchanging data wirelessly over an unlicensed spectrum called the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) band, using technology similar to Wi-Fi. The FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for this purpose, and it is only meant to be used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) — so cars talking to other cars, to traffic signals, to the phone in your pocket… you name it. Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportationâ(TM)s new rule goes into effect.


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