Lawmakers continue to press FCC on LightSquared GPS interference concerns

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives continue to be concerned about the potential for interference with global positioning satellites posed by wholesale LTE provider LightSquared's terrestrial network. A bipartisan group of 66 House members sent a letter to the FCC urging the commission to protect the nation's GPS system from potential interference.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the letter, signed by 17 Democrats and 49 Republicans, was sent just days after Sen. Charles Grassley's (R-Iowa) office released a letter from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski addressing concerns about the issue. 

"We request that the Commission only approve LightSquared's waiver (to offer service) if it can be indisputably proven that there will be no GPS interference," the lawmakers wrote Tuesday. A bipartisan group of 34 senators sent a similar letter to the FCC last month. 

The GPS interference issue has been a big stumbling block for LightSquared, and questions from lawmakers and government agencies have persisted since the FCC granted LightSquared a waiver in late January to operate its L-band satellite spectrum on a terrestrial-only basis. LightSquared acknowledged that its network could pose potential GPS interference concerns, but said that technological fixes can address the issue.

LightSquared has been testing its network to assess potential GPS interference issues, and a final report on the matter is due to the FCC by June 15. In his letter, which was a response to Grassley, Genachowski said that after the report is issued the FCC and the National Telecommunication & Information Administration will have a public comment period. 

Importantly, in the letter, Genachowski reiterated that the commission won't allow LightSquared to begin commercial service without resolving any potential interference with GPS. Meanwhile, LightSquared continues to beat back worries that its forthcoming network will interfere with GPS receivers. LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja argued that "the GPS industry has used this issue as a basis for a campaign to block further development of this new network."

"Rather than using litigation and political influence to resolve technical challenges, we should once again rely on market forces in combination with pro-growth government policies," he wrote in a recent op-ed in The Hill. "In this case that means both industries should commit themselves to work together with federal agencies under the FCC's leadership to assess any potential problems and identify solutions."

For more:
- see this WSJ blog post (sub. req.)

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