A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spokeswoman said last week that the agency would not allow LightSquared to proceed with plans to build a broadband network using technology that could interfere with existing GPS systems.
In a statement, the FCC said the federal agencies charged with coordinating spectrum use have “concluded that there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time. Consequently, the Commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared.”
LightSquared has applied for a spectrum use waiver from the FCC to allow it to deploy technology to dramatically expand broadband access, including in rural areas.
Extensive testing showed, however, that the technology would also cause significant, and evidently unmitigatable, interference with GPS systems, which are essential parts of the modern agricultural, construction and aviation industries. GPS systems are also used by millions of Americans in their cars, on their mobile phones and for other reasons.
In January, a federal interagency committee unanimously determined that proposed fixes to the interference problems did not work, using similar language to say there “appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations” to GPS interference.
Farm groups and farm-state legislators have been heavily engaged on this issue over the past year because tests showed LightSquared’s technology would have disabled most of the estimated 500,000 precision receivers used in farm applications to save money, reduce environmental impact and improve on-farm safety.
NAWG and other groups have stood firm in the opinion that a workable fix was required before the FCC allowed LightSquared to move forward, and that the cost of any modifications required to existing systems be borne by the company, not the GPS user.
LightSquared’s options to proceed with its plans are limited to pursuing other areas of the spectrum or taking the issue to court. The Wall Street Journal reported this week the company may be interested in a spectrum swap with the Defense Department, though no parties to such an exchange were willing to comment.