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Coalition against terrestrial use of satellite spectrum

US: Representatives from a wide variety of industries and companies have announced that they have formed the “Coalition to Save Our GPS.” The Coalition aims to resolve a threat to GPS – a national utility upon which millions of Americans rely every day. The threat stems from a decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant a conditional waiver to a company called LightSquared.

The grant will allow the expansion of terrestrial use of the satellite spectrum immediately neighbouring that of GPS, potentially causing severe interference to millions of GPS receivers. 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 March 11 before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science of the House Appropriations Committee.

The Coalition 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 mile 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 and Feld is leading the government relations effort. The Coalition’s website is www.SaveOurGPS.org.

The waiver granted to LightSquared 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. Instead, the process was approved first, then test. Additional safeguards are needed, so the Coalition has provided certain recommendations which include:
 – The FCC must make clear, and the NTIA must ensure, 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 their 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.

– 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.

Source: GPS Daily