WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representatives from a wide variety of industries and companies have joined together to form the “Coalition to Save Our GPS” to resolve a serious threat to the Global Positioning System (GPS).
The threat stems from a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant a conditional waiver allowing the expansion of terrestrial use of the satellite spectrum immediately neighboring that of GPS, potentially causing severe interference to millions of GPS receivers. The conditional waiver was granted to a company called LightSquared.
A representative of one of the founding members of the coalition, Trimble Vice President and General Counsel Jim Kirkland, will testify on this issue on Friday, March 11, before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science of the House Appropriations Committee.
“GPS is essential to Americans every day – it’s in our cars, the airplanes in which we fly and the ambulances, police cars and fire trucks that help keep us safe. It’s also used in many industrial applications and even synchronizes our wireless, computer and utility networks,” the group said in a statement. “LightSquared’s plans to build up to 40,000 ground stations transmitting radio signals one billion times more powerful than GPS signals as received on earth could mean 40,000 ‘dead spots’ – each miles in diameter – disrupting the vitally important services GPS provides.”
The “Coalition to Save our GPS” includes representatives from a broad range of industries, including aviation, agriculture, transportation, construction, engineering, surveying and GPS-based equipment manufacturers and service providers. Washington, D.C-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is leading the government relations effort.
Initial members of the Coalition are the Aeronautical Repair Stations Association, Air Transport Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Rental Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Case New Holland, Caterpillar Inc., Edison Electric Institute, Esri, Garmin, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Deere & Company, National Association of Manufacturers, OmniSTAR, and Trimble.
The unusual waiver granted in January to LightSquared by the FCC allows it to use its satellite spectrum for high-powered ground-based broadband transmissions if the company can demonstrate that harmful interference could be avoided. The usual FCC process of conducting extensive testing followed by approvals was not followed in this instance, according to coalition officials, who noted that, “Instead, the process was approve first, then test.” Additional safeguards are needed, so the coalition recommends:
- The FCC must make clear that LightSquared’s license modification is contingent on the outcome of the mandated study. The study must be comprehensive, objective, and based on correct assumptions about existing GPS uses rather than theoretical possibilities. The views of LightSquared, as an interested party, are entitled to no special weight in this process.
- The FCC should make clear that LightSquared and its investors should not proceed to make any investment in operating facilities prior to a final FCC decision (or at least make it explicit that they do so at their own risk). While this is the FCC’s established policy, it failed to make this explicit in its order.
- Further, the FCC’s finding that “harmful interference concerns have been resolved” must mean “resolved to the satisfaction of preexisting GPS providers and users.”
- Resolution of interference has to be the obligation of LightSquared, not the extensive GPS user community of millions of citizens. LightSquared must bear the costs of preventing interference of any kind resulting from operations on LightSquared’s frequencies. GPS users or providers should not have to bear any of the consequences of LightSquared’s actions.
- This is a matter of critical national interest. There must be a reasonable opportunity for public comment of at least 45 days on the report produced by the working group.
For more information: SaveOurGPS.org