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House Moves to Block FCC Permit for LightSquared

Fri, 06/24/2011 - 8:37am
Maisie Ramsay

Lawmakers in the House moved yesterday to block the FCC from spending any money granting LightSquared's conditional spectrum permit until the company is able to prove its network won't cause widespread blackouts in GPS service.

The House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to its 2012 appropriations bill that would stop FCC funding "to remove conditions on or permit certain commercial broadband operations until the FCC has resolved concerns of harmful interference by these operations on Global Positioning System (GPS) devices."

The amendment, adopted Thursday on a voice vote, was proposed by Republican congressmen Steve Austria, of Ohio, and Kevin Yoder, from Kansas.

"We must ensure that before any final approval is granted those concerns of possible harmful interference to GPS are completely addressed," Austria said in a statement. "This amendment does not prohibit expanding broadband services, but ensures it is done in a responsible manner and does not interfere with existing GPS technology that we depend on each day."

If approved by the House and Senate, the proposal could effectively stop the FCC from allowing LightSquared to launch its LTE network until the company can prove its service won't affect GPS systems. LightSquared wants to deploy a mobile broadband network in spectrum near  bandwidth used by GPS, sparking concerns that the service could knock out sensitive GPS receivers.

"While we appreciate Representative Austria's and Representative Yoder's concerns, we remain committed to addressing the interference issue and are working with the FCC and all government agencies to do so," a LightSquared spokesman said. "This amendment continues to allow the process of mitigation to move forward."

An earlier version of the appropriations bill stated the committee was "aware of concerns related to possible interference to Global Positioning System (GPS) devices due to terrestrial broadband service" and was waiting for LightSquared's final report on the problem from an FCC-mandated study.

LightSquared's report was due June 15, but was granted an extension and now must file the report by July 1.

The committee's decision to approve the amendment was handed after a Thursday House hearing on the impact of LightSquared's network on GPS systems.

During the hearing, witnesses from government agencies including the Defense Department and Coast Guard, as well as stakeholders in the GPS industry, testified that testing showed LightSquared's network could have a devastating effect on GPS systems if allowed to go live in spectrum bordering airwaves used by GPS.

The witnesses also testified that further testing was needed to ensure that LightSquared's revised launch plans would resolve the issue. LightSquared says its network will not have any impact on 99.5 percent of GPS receivers under its reworked plan, which would only use the lower 10 MHz of Inmarsat's spectrum for its on-the-ground LTE services.

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