Point of Beginning

Newsline: March 2011

February 24, 2011


State Budget Shortfalls Endanger Surveying Programs

States facing budget shortfalls in 2011 are looking at every possible area to reduce expenses--including, in some cases, proposals to eliminate funding for state surveying boards and surveying education.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry proposed in February that funding for the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying (TBPLS), along with three other state agencies, be suspended indefinitely as part of a sweeping measure that attempts to close the state’s $15 billion funding gap. The proposal generated a flurry of activity on the part of the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors, who met with the governor’s advisor on budget, planning and policy to discuss their concerns. TSPS representatives were told that the state did not intend to deregulate the surveying profession or eliminate the regulatory and enforcement functions of TBPLS. However, a resolution has yet to be reached.

“The direct impact to TBPLS could involve remaining an independent agency, consolidation with an existing agency, being administratively attached to an existing state agency or a plan for TBPLS to become a semi-autonomous agency on its own or in conjunction with other licensed professions,” said Pat Smith, TSPS Governmental Affairs Committee chair, in a recent blog post.

A Senate Finance Committee hearing on Feb. 24 was expected to provide additional insight into the situation. TSPS said that updates would be posted to the Lone Star Lines blog on the society’s website.

In Louisiana, a relatively new bachelor’s degree program in geomatics at Nicholls State University is being eyed by the state’s Board of Regents as one of 450 programs across the state that could be eliminated in an effort to help reduce Louisana’s budget deficit. Founded in 2003, the ABET-accredited program was on a list of “low-completer” programs targeted for possible elimination in 2009 but was granted a conditional continuance for an additional three years, pending re-evaluation. In February 2011, the program received a $100,000 donation toward the creation of a $250,000 endowed scholarship, which would offer 20 annual awards of $1,000 each to Nicholls geomatics students. Contributions include $50,000 from Chustz Surveying Inc., $25,000 from the Louisiana Society of Professional Surveyors and $25,000 from the Contractors Educational Trust Fund. Nicholls administrators were expected to present a formal plan on Feb. 28 to defend the geomatics program and other university programs before the regents.

The TSPS website is www.tsps.org. Discussion on the TBPLS funding issue can be found at www.rpls.com/forums/viewtopic/2/1275990. For more information about the Nicholls geomatics program, visit www.nicholls.edu/doas.

USGIC, AEM Study Potential Impact of New Broadband Network on GPS

A recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision could have an impact on GPS--and, consequently, on surveyors, GIS professionals and others who use GPS.

In November, LightSquared, a broad-band network company, submitted an application to the FCC for a modification of its authorization for its operations. The application caused concern among members of the GPS industry, including the U.S. GPS Industry Council (USGIC), who in turn shared their issues with the FCC during the public comment period following LightSquared’s request.

According to the FCC, several commenters raised concerns about “potential interference to GPS receivers and other devices that may result from operation of LightSquared’s base stations.” The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) filed a letter with the FCC, stating its concern that “LightSquared’s services could adversely impact GPS and other GNSS receivers.”

Despite the objections raised by those in the GPS industry, the FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver for its operations on Jan. 26. As one of the conditions, the FCC is requiring LightSquared to participate in a working group to address the concerns raised before the company can begin offering commercial services.

Michael Swiek, executive director of the USGIC, says the organization is now working with LightSquared in forming the working group. “We want to make sure we understand fully what LightSquared’s operations are,” Swiek said. “We want to make sure there is no damage or interference to GPS users.”

According to POB contributor Joseph V.R. Paiva, PhD, PS, PE, “one problem created by the FCC conditional waiver is that LightSquared is able to move ahead with its infrastructure development assuming that viable solutions to the jamming issue will be found. For many users of GPS, theoretical fixes may not be sufficient.”

Paiva noted that the reason interference is such a big concern is that the section of the spectrum referred to as the L-band, in which LightSquared will provide broadband, is immediately adjacent to the section of the L-band used by GPS and is much more powerful. “Some estimates put the LightSquared signal at more than 1 billion times the power of signals from GPS as received at the GPS receiver,” he said.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) was expected to hold a briefing on the issue on Feb. 22 and is working to determine the potential impact of this waiver. Updates will be posted to www.pobonline.com and www.siteprepmag.com as further details are available. In-depth coverage is also planned for POB’s April issue.