Five organizations representing thousands of companies and millions of Americans have launched a new coalition to protect end users of GPS, following the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) April 22 decision to permit Ligado Networks to operate a terrestrial wireless network using its satellite spectrum. Ligado’s planned use of its so called “L-Band”spectrum, which is closely adjacent to bands used by GPS, would threaten the reception capability of hundreds of millions of GPS devices.
Founding members of the Keep GPS Working Coalition include the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) and the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.). As its first action, the Keep GPS Working Coalition will endorse the Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act, which is expected to be formally introduced this week by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
[Photo above: GPS III satellite payload in pre-launch anechoic chamber testing. Courtesy Lockheed Martin.]
“The FCC’s decision threatens GPS reliability for countless consumers, farmers, ranchers, pilots, boat owners, surveyors, construction companies and other private GPS users who will be forced to suffer interference to their GPS devices or to pay to replace them,” according to a Coalition statement. “:The FCC admits in its order that there are cases where both government and private GPS receivers—including those that power aviation, agriculture and other key industries—will suffer harmful interference, but failed to provide a technically feasible and adequate remediation solution for consumer and business end users.”
The FCC also failed to conduct an open and comprehensive rulemaking process before issuing the Ligado order, the Coalition holds, instead circulating a final decision only among FCC commissioners while major stakeholders grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the FCC ignored established technical standards determining whether GPS devices would suffer harmful interference, instead relying on limited studies using vague and impractical criteria to assess interference with the GPS signal, while disregarding mountains of evidence on the topic under the established methodology.
“In issuing the Ligado order, the FCC threw millions of Americans who depend on GPS in their everyday lives under the bus with undue haste and inadequate consideration,” said Dale Leibach, spokesperson for the Keep GPS Working Coalition. “Alarmingly, the commission also ignored concerns raised by Congress and federal agencies—the experts that rely on GPS to protect our national and economic security—including the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Commerce, Interior, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration. DOD has even argued before Congress that the interference from Ligado’s network would put missions and troops at risk. It is a highly questionable decision that benefits a single company and its Wall Street investors at the expense of national and economic security.”
The Keep GPS Working Coalition will ensure that the concerns of end users are represented in this critical public policy debate, joining the chorus of experts sounding the alarm over the Ligado order’s existential threat to GPS technology and urging the FCC to reverse its decision.
“In the interest of the agriculture, construction, and other off-road equipment manufacturers, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers is taking a firm stance against the recent FCC Ligado decision,” said Kip Eideberg, Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Relations for AEM. “The FCC decision impacts millions of private GPS devices, many of which are used by farmers, contractors and consumers who depend on a reliable connection to plant, harvest, construct and move goods. We thank Senators Inhofe and Reed for their leadership and for introducing this legislation that will begin to address the wrongdoings the Ligado order will cause, and we urge the FCC to reconsider their imprudent decision.”
“America’s farmers and ranchers rely on precision agriculture technology and GPS so their farms and ranches can be more efficient, economical and environmentally responsible. Expanding broadband access is a top priority for Farm Bureau but not at the expense of losing the accuracy of GPS,” said Zippy Duvall, President of AFBF.
“The FCC’s actions threaten the profound improvements GPS has made possible in the construction industry, including increased efficiency, productivity and improved safety,” said Dave Bauer, President and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. “ARTBA stands with our fellow Keep GPS Working Coalition members as we aim to reverse the FCC’s decision.”
“Reliable GPS is critical to aviation safety, a fact that was not adequately weighed by the FCC before reaching its decision. AOPA is grateful for the opportunity to represent aviation stakeholders as part of the Keep GPS Working Coalition,” said Jim Coon, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs for the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association.
“The GPS technology that America’s boaters rely on every day is once again threatened by the FCC’s recent decision,” said David Kennedy, Government Affairs Manager of BoatU.S. “BoatU.S. is honored to be part of the Keep GPS Working Coalition and looks forward to working with the coalition’s other members to protect this critical technology.”
In addition to requiring Ligado to satisfy additional conditions prior to the order becoming effective, the bipartisan Inhofe-Reed legislation would ensure the costs incurred by businesses and consumers as a result of the FCC’s decision would be covered by the licensee benefiting from the decision—in this case, Ligado.
“The Keep GPS Working Coalition thanks Senators Inhofe and Reed for introducing the Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act, which acknowledges the potential harm to GPS end users caused by the Ligado order and ensures the burden of cost sits squarely where it belongs—on Ligado, rather than our farmers, pilots, boat owners, surveyors or construction companies,” said Leibach. “While we strongly urge the FCC to reconsider its position on this matter, we are deeply grateful to Senators Inhofe and Reed for recognizing the tremendous expense and burden the Ligado order places on American businesses and consumers and providing clear and immediate relief to critical stakeholders.”
For additional information, see the Keep GPS Working Coalition website.