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Committee Hearing Examines LightSquared Impact on Small Businesses

October 13, 2011
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House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) held a full committee hearing on Oct. 12 to examine the impact on small businesses that may result from LightSquared’s broadband network proposal. “Increasing broadband to underserved and rural areas is a noble goal and only makes sense in this rapidly advancing technological world,” Graves said. “However, we must find a solution to increase wireless broadband without jeopardizing currently established GPS systems and further burdening small businesses.

“Interference of the GPS signal will cost American small businesses billions of dollars to retrofit their GPS devices. This alone is an enormous burden that could harm or impair their business. From land surveyors to family farmers to thousands of other businesses- a huge segment of our economy will be affected. But this is about more than the cost, it is also about safety. Pilots rely heavily on GPS to maneuver their planes- so above all, we must ensure that safety is not compromised.”

During the hearing, Dennis B. Boykin IV, managing principal at DB4 Consulting in Leesburg, VA, expressed concern that the filter technology being proposed as a solution to the interference problem isn’t designed for use in aviation and hasn’t been tested in that application.

Rick Greene, precision agronomy manager at MFA Inc. in Columbia, MO, discussed the economic impact LightSquared would have on the agriculture industry, “It will take 10-15 years to complete a normal replacement cycle and affects up to $10 billion in equipment,” he said. “Even if the Javad filter ($300 - $800) works, implanting it to the 1 million receivers will cost $300 to $800 million which doesn’t include the additional personnel, installation and down-time. It’s like saying that because Chevy has an all-electric car on the market we can shut down every gas station in the U.S. next year, or all analog TV’s need to be replaced the day the digital switch was turned on.”

Jeff Carlisle, executive vice president of LightSquared, said that the GPS manufacturers created the problem and should bear the cost of fixing it. “The GPS manufacturers either failed to understand the vulnerability of their own receivers or took the calculated risk that LightSquared would not be able to complete its network,” he argued. “Either way, they did nothing to prepare their receivers or their users for the planned changes in the spectrum environment.”

In response to Carlisle’s testimony, the Coalition to Save Our GPS issued a statement on Oct. 13 in which it reiterated its position that LightSquared must bear full responsibility for interference. “The FCC has made clear that LightSquared will not be permitted to commence operations until it has demonstrated that all interference issues have been resolved, and did not make an exception for high-precision receivers,” said Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble, a founding member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS. “In fact, the reason high-precision receivers suffer interference that LightSquared can’t solve is that they were designed to take advantage of commercial satellite services LightSquared, its predecessors, and Inmarsat have offered that are used to improve the precision of these receivers. LightSquared’s claim that GPS manufacturers were on notice of its proposed terrestrial use of satellite spectrum is also false, since it was only authorized to provide limited fill-in services prior to 2011. For LightSquared to claim that its interference to high-precision receivers is somehow the fault of GPS manufacturers, warranting a ‘recall,’ has no basis in fact, law or prior FCC decisions. To the contrary, the FCC has consistently held that transition costs must be borne by the party proposing a new use, not prior spectrum users who acted in good faith reliance on prior decisions, as the GPS industry did here.”

Go here to read the complete testimony from the hearing.

The website for the Coalition to Save Our GPS is www.saveourgps.org.

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