Fuller, Rep. Bass to FCC: Vet LightSquared proposal

June 29, 2011

AOPA President Craig Fuller joined Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.) in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to thoroughly test LightSquared’s proposed nationwide wireless broadband network that threatens GPS before approving the project. The proposal would transmit signals immediately adjacent to, and much more powerful than, the signals from GPS satellites. Several initial studies have shown that the plan would cause severe widespread interference with the GPS signal.

Rep. BassSpeaking at a news conference in his home district of Concord, N.H., on June 29, Bass noted that GPS has become an integral part of the U.S. economy that must be protected.

“Along comes LightSquared,” said Bass, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Communications and Technology, with a plan to use unused bandwidth right next to GPS. “In a vacuum, this makes sense.” But, he said, the potential danger to GPS caused by the proximity of the LightSquared signals needs to be fully vetted by the FCC before the company is allowed to proceed with implementation.

Fuller noted that he recently testified at a joint meeting of the aviation and Coast Guard and maritime transportation subcommittees of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. At that hearing, he said, the Obama administration sent representatives from the Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Coast Guard (representing itself and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security), all of whom said the process needs to be halted until the LightSquared proposal is more fully tested.

“It’s time for the chairman of the FCC to call home and get new instructions,” Fuller said.

Bass, a pilot and AOPA member, and two of his colleagues recently sent a letter to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC.

In it, Reps. Bass, Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) questioned the “abbreviated process” used by the FCC’s international bureau to handle the LightSquared application, and urged further handling of the case at the “full Commission level.” They recommended that LightSquared’s waiver be terminated if testing does not conclusively show that there will be no harmful interference with GPS from the many proposed LightSquared base stations.

“Following a recent report of broad-based interference, the Commission's review and resolution of this matter is critical,” the letter said.

Bass and Fuller were joined at the news conference by representatives from the New Hampshire Fish and Game, the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, and the former director of the Mt. Washington Regional airport, who discussed the critical importance of GPS to safety and economic development.

Asked by a reporter about the level of threat to GPS, Bass said that’s the point. “We don’t know. The FCC should not pass judgment until those questions are answered.”