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Revising the Storyline – Senate Leadership & New Industry Cooperation for the 5.9 GHz Band

A letter from private sector businesses and organizations to the Federal Communications Commission, and Departments of Transportation and Commerce, agreeing on a single set of principles to examine use of the 5.9 GHz band by unlicensed devices, arrives like the fall weather – crisp, clear and a relief from the heat and humidity of summer.  This letter lays out a clear path forward for determining whether sharing in the 5.9 GHz band can take place without causing harmful interference.

And even more noteworthy, members of the Senate Commerce Committee had a strong hand in moving the parties into agreement – demonstrating once again that a bit of well-executed oversight can have a tremendously positive impact on issue resolution.

For a while now, we’ve been reading cringe-worthy news reports about different segments of the industry supporting violently different views of what the 5.9 GHz band should become. Because the 75 MHz of radio spectrum (5850-5925 MHz) sits adjacent to a large swath existing unlicensed spectrum, the notion is that in some way, it may be possible for unlicensed technologies (such as Wi-Fi) to utilize bits of the 5.9 GHz radio spectrum that incumbents (such as intelligent transportation systems) are not using.

But that simple idea has itself generated controversy – exactly how would that happen? And who decides? Based on what?   After all, the incumbent ITS uses are “safety of life” uses – designed by the Department of Transportation and auto industry to enable unimpaired drivers to avoid dangerous and even deadly accidents and road conditions.

Full disclosure: Cisco has been working on technology that would allow Wi-Fi to share the 5850-5895 MHz portion of the band while ensuring current and planned ITS uses could use the band undisturbed by radio interference. Cisco believes that we can listen, detect, and avoid ITS uses of the band, and that the benefits of using this spectrum – away from active roadways where ITS use would be prevalent – are huge. Cisco also offers solutions to the transportation sector that include ITS radios. As a result, Cisco is strongly interested in a “win-win” for the two radio communities of interest.

What’s to admire about this letter?

For starters, it embraces the view that regulators ought to consider having different systems share the same radio spectrum – provided that that there is an objective fact-based case to demonstrate that the systems with superior rights are protected from interference.

That’s good for consumers, because:

(1) it ensures driving will be safer ;

(2) it ensures we’re using radio spectrum resources as intensively as possible; and (3) if we can make Wi-Fi share effectively, that means more Wi-Fi channels will be available for broadband connectivity.

We also agree – the FCC, in close coordination with the DoT and other federal agencies – should take the lead to ensure that testing and modeling support a future decision to open the band for shared use. The FCC has the appropriate skills and expertise to understand how to evaluate the complexities of advanced radio sharing, while the DoT understands best what the ITS radios must be able to achieve from a performance standpoint when installed in cars and on roadways.

We also agree that the parties and agencies should utilize the FCC’s docketed proceeding to ensure relevant data and testing are available on the public record for any interested party to access. This is the best mechanism to ensure all sides are heard.

And we strongly agree that the process of evaluating new technologies for sharing should not be held to a simplistic deadline, after which the examination is abandoned in favor of some other approach.

When Wi-Fi embarked on an effort in 2002 to open up other sections of the 5 GHz band to unlicensed use, it took nearly four years before the FCC adopted final rules that permitted Wi-Fi to share the band with governmental radars.   The process of opening new spectrum to sharing is complex and contains unexpected twists and turns that cannot be anticipated.

Congratulations to the Senate Commerce Committee for aligning the parties around a path forward, and to the private party signatories for thinking through what they could agree on, instead of continuing to disagree.

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Concerns about the Department of Commerce’s Proposed Export Rule under the Wassenaar Arrangement

Today, Cisco filed comments on a Proposed Rule published by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in an effort to comply with an international agreement called the Wassenaar Arrangement. The proposal would regulate a wide array of technologies used in security research as controlled exports, in the same manner as if they were munitions. Cisco, along with many other stakeholders in the cybersecurity research field, has identified a number of significant concerns that we believe require BIS to revisit the text of the Proposed Rule.

BIS’ focus on limiting the cross-border trafficking of weaponized software is well-intentioned, but the current text would cause significant unintended consequences that must be addressed in a revised draft of the Proposed Rule. If implemented in its current form, the Proposed Rule would present significant challenges for security firms that leverage cross border teams, vulnerability research, information sharing, and penetration testing tools to secure global networks, including Cisco. The result would be to negatively impactrather than to improvethe state of cybersecurity.

The goal of regulating the export of weaponized software is understandable. However, many of the same techniques used by attackers are important to developers testing their defenses and developing new effective responses. Cisco needs access to the very tools and techniques that attackers use if we have any hope of maintaining the security of our products and services throughout their anticipated lifecycles. The development of new export control requirements must, therefore, be done carefully and based upon the needs of legitimate security researchers. Otherwise, we will leave network operators blind to the attacks that may be circulating in the criminal underground—and ultimately blind to the very weaponized software that the proposed rule intends to constrain.

The requirements in the Proposed Rule are far broader than necessary to address BIS’ stated intent—controlling the export of weaponized software. We look forward to working with the Department of Commerce to ensure that the goals of the proposal can be met in a manner that is technology neutral, narrowly tailored to the actual risks faced by the nation, and reflective of the needs of legitimate security researchers seeking to protect the information technologies upon which we increasingly rely.

We look forward to continuing the conversation.


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Statement of Jennifer Sanford on Passage of Trade Package

Congress has now approved a landmark trade package including Trade Promotion Authority and Trade Adjustment Assistance.  This is a significant accomplishment that just a week ago looked in serious doubt.

This trade package will give President Obama the ability to conclude negotiations on the TransPacific Partnership; it gives Congress the authority to establish priorities in those negotiations, and it provides $1.8 billion for worker re-training.

Free trade supports American jobs.  At our facility in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, for instance, some 4,500 plus jobs are supported by free trade, including hundreds of jobs at our technical assistance center.  Put simply, our engineers in North Carolina couldn’t help customers in Europe, Asia and the Americas if data is not able move freely around the world. The TPA bill supports this kind of digital trade.

The economic impact of free trade goes well beyond one company or one industry.  It affects every sector of every industry in the economy.  According to the Business Roundtable, free trade supports 39.8 million jobs across the nation.

On behalf of Cisco, I’d like to thank President Obama for his leadership on trade, as well as Republican and Democratic members of both the House and the Senate for their courageous votes on this issue.

Enacting this legislation is a critical part of ensuring American competitiveness over the next generation.

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Statement by Mark Chandler on Senate Judiciary Committee Passage of Patent Reform

The Senate Judiciary Committee today overwhelmingly approved patent litigation reform, clearing a hurdle which proved insurmountable in the last Congress. This is a major milestone that demonstrates strong bipartisan, bicameral support for meaningful patent reform. It clears the way for the Senate to act.

The bill approved by Committee takes a major step toward restoring fairness and balance to our patent litigation system.  It makes sure that patent assertion entities which bring objectively unreasonable lawsuits can be held to account for the costs they impose and makes sure they can’t hide behind shells to avoid that responsibility. It has meaningful discovery and heightened pleading provisions that will help avoid costly fishing expeditions; it helps stop abusive demand letters; and it includes provisions that protect the rights of universities and small inventors.

Like any bill, this legislation is not perfect. But we will work with Senators on and off the Judiciary Committee to refine the legislation as it moves to the floor, especially to assure that there continues to be an effective Inter Partes Review process to protect consumers and businesses from weak patents that should have never been granted in the first place.

Our great thanks go to Senators Chuck Grassley, Patrick Leahy, John Cornyn, Chuck Schumer, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee and Amy Klobuchar, as well as all the members of the committee who ultimately supported the bill. This is a huge step in the right direction — one that at last opens the door to meaningful reform.


Cisco Welcomes Introduction of Senate Patent Litigation Reform Bill

The introduction of Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act of 2015 represents a major milestone on the long road to patent reform. On behalf of Cisco, let me thank Senators Grassley, Leahy, Cornyn, Schumer, Lee, Hatch and Klobuchar for their work to forge bipartisan support for this legislation.

The problem of abusive patent litigation lawsuits continues to grow, costing our nation’s economy billions of dollars every year. Patent assertion entities don’t make or produce anything, instead they use abusive tactics to force settlements and drive up legal fees. This has got to stop.

The legislation introduced today is a significant step forward. It has strong fee-shifting provisions, makes important discovery reforms, and protects users of technologies from abusive demand letters.

Cisco stands ready to work with the bill sponsors and other stakeholders to make this legislation even stronger as it moves its way through the legislative process. Now is the time for Congress to pass meaningful patent reform and end the abusive business model of patent assertion entities.