The dispute between LightSquared Inc. and the GPS industry recently shifted back to Congress. LightSquared is currently seeking approval from the FCC to move forward with its plans to build out a broadband wireless network. But the company has been facing fierce opposition from many claiming the proposed network will interfere with GPS system signals.
During a hearing before Congress last week, several lawmakers criticized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for “advocating” for LightSquared at the expense of critical GPS operations.
They demanded to know why the FCC was still considering approving LightSquared despite the protestations of NASA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Trade, and virtually the entire GPS industry who all argue that LightSquared’s proposal will cripple GPS systems and threaten national security.
“We cannot afford to have federal telecommunications policy, especially where it affects national security, to be made in the same way that the White House parceled out a half billion dollars in loan guarantees to the failed Solyndra Corporation,” said Rep. Michael Turner (R-Oh), who oversaw the hearing.
Despite criticisms, the FCC has withheld final approval until the interference issues are resolved.
Although LightSquared owns its own spectrum, it needs the FCC’s approval to use its spectrum for another purpose. A leaked report from the FAA, dated Jul 12, said the effects of LightSquared deployment would be far-reaching and potentially devastating to aviation. The “estimated loss of life from 2014 to 2023 as a result of LightSquared impacts to GPS during a period when the nation’s aircraft were retrofitted to accommodate the LightSquared signals would include 794 deaths, with a value of life totaling $4.9 billion,” the report states.
The FAA’s Navigation Services division also said there will be over $72 billion in additional costs to U.S. taxpayers if the LightSquared LTE system is implemented. The FAA report called that estimates conservative, and it did not include injuries or property loss.
The FAA’s report said even a revised proposal from LightSquared to launch a national wireless broadband network would interfere with the GPS systems that US aviation depends on everyday.