Comcast reaches to tie self-driving cars to justifiable paid prioritization

Self-Driving Car Lane
Comcast's argument that paid prioritization and internet fast lanes may spur innovation of a self-driving car industry that could be worth as much as $7 trillion seems logical, but there's a glaring technological hole: Autonomous vehicles don’t communicate using the open internet.

While Comcast spent much of a 161-page commentary (PDF) to the FCC this week egging on the now Republican-led commission to carry out rollbacks of internet regulations passed by the previous Democratic regime, tech blog The Verge noticed a “quirky” paragraph buried deep inside the document. 

“The Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public,” Comcast said. “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."

RELATED: Comcast’s Cohen: Broadband capex has declined by $3.6B under Title II

WHITEPAPER

How To Lower the Cost of Ownership of Your Cable Access Network

This white paper presents a cost analysis of a virtualized cable modem termination system (CMTS) deployed in a distributed access architecture (DAA). Learn how to eliminate traditional CMTS constraints, efficiently enhance your network performance and more.

But although Comcast was making the seemingly logical argument that paid prioritization and internet fast lanes may spur innovation of a self-driving car industry that could be worth as much as $7 trillion, The Verge pointed out a glaring technological hole: Autonomous vehicles don’t communicate using the open internet. 

Indeed, the FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), which will allow self-driving cars to exchange data with each other, and myriad other devices, over unlicensed spectrum. 

A Comcast rep told the tech pub the comments were not referring to DSRC, but rather LTE-Vehicular (LTE-V) communication, which would let cars communicate with cellular towers over LTE. But that technology is still under development, and automakers are increasingly favoring DSRC for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication. 

“Since none of these messages are ever meant touch the networks of Comcast or any other carrier, their prioritization argument is irrelevant,” said Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst at Navigant Research, to The Verge. 

Suggested Articles

WarnerMedia scored a key HBO Max distribution deal with Comcast just as it launched in May. Nearly six months later, there still isn’t an app.

Peacock, NBCUniversal’s recently launched streaming video service, is rolling out 20% discounts on annual Premium subscriptions for Black Friday.

How can we defend ourselves? Mostly, it’s a matter of common sense.