The White House is hosting a forum on “Spectrum Auctions: Unlocking the Innovative Potential of Wireless Broadband” that includes remarks by key members of the Obama Administration.

The following is a statement issued today by the Coalition to Save Our GPS:

We note that the White House is hosting a forum on “Spectrum Auctions: Unlocking the Innovative Potential of Wireless Broadband” that includes remarks by key members of the Obama Administration. We salute President Obama’s continued efforts to expand broadband coverage throughout this country, but in doing so we ask that the administration ensure that the Global Positioning System (GPS) is not sacrificed in the process.

The recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) International Bureau to grant a conditional waiver allowing the dramatic expansion of terrestrial use of satellite spectrum in the band immediately neighboring the GPS band could have severe negative ramifications on the viability of GPS systems across the country, an infrastructure in which many billions of dollars of both public and private funds have been invested. It could have severe consequences for GPS, which is used every day by businesses and government agencies employing millions of people.

Specifically, the conditional waiver was granted to a company called LightSquared, which plans to utilize extremely high-powered ground-based transmissions that are expected to cause severe interference to millions of GPS receivers, including those used by the federal departments and agencies, state and local governments, first responders, aviation, mariners, civil engineering, construction and surveying, agriculture, and everyday consumers in their cars and on handheld devices.

The bureau’s decision has caused serious concern within the GPS industry and user community since this planned use is dramatically different from historic uses of the satellite bands shared with GPS – a national utility on which millions of Americans depend every day.

Initial technical analyses have shown that the distant, low-powered GPS signals would receive substantial interference from high-powered, close-proximity transmissions from LightSquared’s planned network of 40,000 ground stations. LightSquared plans to transmit ground-based radio signals that would be one billion or more times more powerful as received on earth than GPS's low-powered satellite-based signals. The consequences of disruption to the GPS signals are far reaching. LightSquared’s facilities could create 40,000 “dead spots” – each miles in diameter – around U.S. cities and, importantly, their airports.

Typically, FCC matters like these are handled with extensive testing followed by a decision based on the test results. In the case of LightSquared, the process was approve first, then test. The International Bureau did, after granting the conditional waiver, set up a short test period to try to determine if a solution to the interference problem could be found.

Our rapidly growing group, the Coalition to Save Our GPS, currently represents more than 30,000 companies, both directly and via trade associations that are concerned about the direction the FCC is going. The Coalition is growing every day as more and more people learn what is happening.

Illustrative of the strong concern is a recent joint letter to the FCC from Department of Defense (DoD) Deputy Secretary William J. Lynch and Department of Transportation (DOT) Deputy Secretary John Porcari. Writing in what they described as their Departments’ role as “the national stewards and global providers of” GPS, they stated that DoD and DOT “strongly advise that a comprehensive study of all the potential interference to GPS is needed. The new LightSquared business plan and the new FCC rules significantly expand the terrestrial transmission environment, increasing the potential for interference to GPS receivers.”

We hope that the Obama Administration will work to ensure that the LightSquared system is not deployed unless it can be conclusively guaranteed that GPS systems used by millions of Americans are fully protected from interference.