A variety of advocacy groups and industry stakeholders filed comments yesterday in response to a petition by non-profit Public Knowledge to halt operation of the Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) service.  The nascent DSRC service, which operates in the 5.9 GHz band, enables vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications to protect the safety of drivers and passengers and for commercial purposes.  Concerned that DSRC capabilities, combined with vulnerabilities in vehicles’ operating systems, could compromise vehicle owners’ privacy and provide a new vector for cyberattacks, Public Knowledge petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in June to “immediately prohibit use of DSRC until it adopts service rules protecting the cybersecurity and privacy of DSRC users.”  The FCC called for comments on the proposal last month.

Public Knowledge’s petition found a number of supporters in consumer advocacy groups.  A half-dozen organizations joined Public Knowledge’s comment in support of its petition, which proposes rules addressing “the substantial privacy and data breach issues presented by the commercialization of DSRC spectrum” and requiring DSRC licensees to submit cybersecurity plans.  Over a dozen privacy and consumer advocates also submitted a joint letter in support of the petition, echoing these points.

Opposition to the proposal, however, was strong and came from varied quarters.  A working group responsible for certain DSRC security standards argued that “comprehensive security and privacy features are already fully integrated into DSRC technology.”  California’s Department of Transportation also weighed in, highlighting the state’s significant investment in DSRC-related technology and stressing the considerable safety benefits that may be realized with widespread adoption of DSRC.  Finally, General Motors—whose 2017 Cadillac CTS will feature the technology—filed a spirited opposition, calling the petition’s fears “unsubstantiated” and its request for relief “legally baseless.”

Those voicing privacy and cybersecurity concerns related to DSRC have already found a receptive ear in some corners of Washington.  Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal wrote FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this month, proposing a number of measures to prohibit commercial use of the DSRC spectrum, require licensees to submit cybersecurity plans, and provide for timely notifications if breaches occur.  The two Senators introduced a related bill, the Security and Privacy in Your Car Act (S. 1806), last year.  In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is studying related issues.