Bill directs USDA to join GPS fight

June 20, 2011

The House has passed a Fiscal Year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill with language expressing displeasure with the Federal Communications Commission’s handling of the LightSquared mobile-network application, which it said threatens to “disrupt” the use of GPS.

In language inserted in the bill in committee to register concerns about the LightSquared network, the House directs the USDA “to ensure the FCC is aware of these concerns and to work with other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation, to address them.”

The GPS language was introduced by Appropriations agriculture subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) when the bill was in the full Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). Rogers, Kingston, and Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), another member of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee, are all members of the House GA Caucus.

“We appreciate the support of the House Appropriations Committee for including language in the Agriculture Appropriations bill to help protect GPS,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.

Since LightSquared was granted a conditional waiver to proceed with building its network, concerns that its plan to use electromagnetic spectrum close to that portion used for GPS signals would create interference have proliferated. Shared objections led numerous industries and stakeholders to come together as the Coalition to Save Our GPS.

Tests have also pointed to conflict, bringing sharp criticism of the FCC’s handling of the application from members of Congress. A committee of the federal advisory panel RTCA issued a critical report.

Also recently, 36 House members of the GA Caucus notified FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski of their concern that the proposed network would create “GPS dead spots” across the country, as AOPA reported June 15.

The GPS language included in the agriculture appropriations bill states: “The Committee recognizes that the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) is critical to USDA's mission, including natural resource monitoring, forest firefighting, law enforcement, and research. In addition, precision agriculture would not be possible without GPS. It is estimated that U.S. farmers and ranchers have invested more than $3 billion in GPS technologies. The Committee is aware of a decision by the Federal Communications Commission that may disrupt the use of GPS, causing significant problems for USDA and our Nation's farmers and ranchers. The Committee directs USDA to ensure the FCC is aware of these concerns and to work with other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation, to address them.”