32 US senators urge stay on FCC’s Ligado decision

May 18, 2020  - By

Thirty-two United States senators wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on May 15 expressing concerns with the commission’s determination on Ligado Networks. The senators also asked the FCC to address these concerns and stay their order while they were doing so.

The five-member FCC voted unanimously in April to approve an order to allow Ligado Networks to deploy a low-power nationwide 5G network.

“The hurried nature of the circulation and consideration of the Order itself — during a national crisis, no less — was not conducive to addressing the many technical concerns raised by affected stakeholders,” wrote the senators.

The senators continued,

“With this specific docket item pending before the FCC for almost 10 years, we are concerned with the pace by the Commission to push through an Order first announced on April 16, the approval for which was declared two business days later. We believe this accelerated timeline was not adequate to address the significant stakeholder concerns for an Order of this magnitude….”

“We are concerned that the FCC has discounted testing and assessments conducted by nine federal agencies in the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee process — all expressing concerns that the Ligado plan would interfere with millions of GPS receivers and satellite services across the nation. Further, the FCC did not provide a technical forum to resolve the significant disconnects between this testing and Ligado’s privately funded testing…”

“For these reasons, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to immediately stay and reconsider their Order on this matter, more fully consider the technical concerns raised by numerous federal agencies and private sector stakeholders, and outline a path forward that adequately addresses these concerns.”

A Resilient PNT Foundation editorial on the organization’s website says the main problem seems to be misunderstanding about the differences between radionavigation and communication.

“We share the concerns with the FCC’s actions that are outlined in this letter:

    • After ten years of deliberations a draft order was processed to a final decision within a couple days during a national crisis
    • The FCC discounted the testing done by the executive branch and did not say why
    • No technical forum was held to resolve the differences between Ligado’s and DoD/DoT’s testing
    • There was no public discussion of these differences and how they might be resolved

“Undoubtedly, a lot of the differences between the FCC and the Executive Branch on this issue boil down to a lack of appreciation of the fundamental differences between wireless communication and radionavigation.” The Resilient PNT Foundation website provides a table outlining the differences.

“When two parties start from completely different places, they are likely to talk past each other and end up in completely different places.

“We think the Federal Communications Commission might not have fully appreciated the needs of radionavigation as a safety-of-life utility and wound up in the wrong place.

“But that’s just us. A lot of folks think differently.

“That’s why we are urging an independent technical review, with both communications and radionavigation experts, to inform public policy decisions on this before anything moves forward.

“This is too important to get wrong.”

Feature photos:
Capitol building with flag/Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com
Capitol building at night/Brian Kinney/Shutterstock.com

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

1 Comment on "32 US senators urge stay on FCC’s Ligado decision"

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  1. Richard Olsen says:

    this reminds me of the conflict with LightSquared in a similar plan to intrude into the GPS frequency range.