From NSPS News & Views July 15, 2020
Congress has begun taking steps to over-ride or mitigate the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent approval of a long-standing request by Ligado Networks (formerly LightSquared) for a controversial satellite based broadband system that critics say will use spectrum near that used by the Global Positioning System (GPS). According to analyses by the departments of Defense and Transportation, and others, the Ligado system will interfere with GPS reception for many users. Congress is moving beyond talk and initiating legislative provisions. These would require an independent technical review of the FCC’s decision and place limits on the ability of Ligado Networks to use the license it was granted. A primary vehicle for congressional action looks to be the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2021.
The member of Congress that has been the most outspoken critic of the FCC’s decision is Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee that has direct responsibility for writing the NDAA. The Senate version of the NDAA for fiscal year 2021 has several provisions that directly address the FCC’s decision. Senator Inhofe has also announced he will introduce stand-alone legislation when Congress returns from summer recess. His “Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act,” or “RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act,” a NSPS-supported bill that would require Ligado to modify or replace any receiver, including those used by private citizens, that would be impacted by Ligado’s operations.
This modification would be required before the FCC’s order allowing them to transmit could come into force. Most observers opine that the number of impacted civil receivers in the U.S. is so great that this would effectively deny Ligado use of the frequency. Introduction of the RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act is expected before the summer recess.
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