Requests That FCC Halt Development until Full Accuracy Assured

November 8, 2011

Congressional lawmakers have called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt further action in granting a waiver for upstart telecommunications provider LightSquared to deploy its proposed nationwide 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, until that company demonstrates those powerful wireless signals will absolutely not interfere with existing Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.

“While we understand the importance and benefits of providing high-speed internet to rural areas, such innovations should not threaten current established GPS and add more unnecessary burdens to small businesses,” reads a letter sent by House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-6- MO) and eight other lawmakers to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “Further, we request that the Commission not proceed with approval of LightSquared’s proposal until federal testing reveals that there will be no interference with GPS, thereby ensuring that small businesses will not have to incur significant monetary burdens to try and filter potential interference to their GPS reception devices.”

Review the full letter from the House Small Business Committee (1.7MB, PDF)

The letter follows an October hearing before the committee, which included testimony from GPS users and industry representatives, as well as LightSquared executive Jeffrey Carlisle. In his remarks, Carlisle asserted that LightSquared’s proposed remedies to the interference issue – moving its signal to a frequency further away from bandwidth used by GPS, or deployment of signal filters for new and existing receivers – would resolve the issue for “99 percent of the GPS users.”

Graves replied those solutions still wouldn’t be good enough. “This is not an acceptable answer or solution for general aviation,” the letter states. “The FAA has very specific requirements for safety and one percent tolerances are not acceptable – 100 percent accuracy is needed to ensure a safe flight for general aviation.”

NBAA has been actively involved in efforts calling for LightSquared to demonstrate technology fully compatible with GPS. Earlier this year, the Association joined the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which now has more than 200 members. That group is committed to resolving the threat to GPS and preserving its benefits for industries, government and citizens. In related news, an industry group dedicated to preserving the integrity of the GPS signal has put a dollar amount to the potential impact from LightSquared’s proposed terrestrial and satellite network. As NBAA reported, in late October the Coalition to Save Our GPS published a white paper estimating the cost to the various agencies that rely on GPS to be $245 billion.