US DOJ moves to dismiss Ligado lawsuit

February 19, 2024  - By

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed to dismiss satellite communications firm Ligado Network’s October 2023 lawsuit against the federal government, arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction and the company’s claims have no legal basis.

Ligado’s $40 billion suit alleged that officials at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) took “unlawful actions” to, in effect, improperly seize the firm’s L-band spectrum without compensation. Ligado was granted to build a 5G communications network by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2020.

Ligado plans to use the L-band spectrum — normally used by satellites — to develop a wireless cell phone network. However, the DoD, and several other federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation (DOT), have expressed concerns that Ligado’s terrestrial operations could have harmful effects on GPS.

According to Ligado, as long as the DOD continues to use the spectrum, Ligado will be unable to use it to launch its terrestrial communications services.

The DOJ’s motion asserts that rather than the U.S. Federal Claims Court, the issue instead falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Act, which “established a comprehensive remedial scheme” for FCC licensing decisions.

Secondly, the motion says Ligado’s complaint “fails to allege any authorized government actions that could give rise to takings liability, and instead, it contends that the government has been engaged in an unlawful effort to preclude Ligado from using its FCC license. These contentions necessarily preclude any takings liability.”

The motion goes on to contest each of the Ligado suit’s four specific legal claims. The DOJ alleges, “Ligado fails to plead any plausible facts to support its purely speculative claim that the government has occupied its licensed spectrum. And its theory that the government required a spectrum ‘dead zone’ around the separate spectrum bands allocated for GPS use similarly fails because Ligado cannot identify any authorized government action that precluded it from actually using its modified license.”

In response to the motion, Ligado provided a statement to Breaking Defense, reiterating its complaint that government officials deliberately deprived Ligado of its rightfully licensed property and must be held accountable.

“This attack on an American business by the world’s most powerful institution is contrary to the rule of law and antithetical to the government’s years-long support for the deployment of 5G technology as a vital national priority,” the statement said. “We worked diligently and in good faith with government agencies to find a fair resolution but were left with no choice but to pursue litigation to defend our interests. We continue to stand firmly behind our complaint and will reply to the government’s motion in the appropriate forum.”