There has been a wide range of comments and opinions on the GPS interference issue related to the proposed LightSquared wireless network. Comments from GPS users, wireless supporters, aviation advocates, and even casinos have been flowing to the Federal Communication Commission in recent months with their support of or opposition to the LightSquared network. The numerous disciplines to which these authors adhere result in an interesting collection of perspectives and attitudes toward these proceedings. The belligerency of some letters and the slanderous accusations between proponents of the differing opinions demonstrate that the issue will be resolved by the effectiveness of commercial propaganda rather than the application process relating to spectrum allocation.
LightSquared has spread the rumor
that high-precision GPS users are squatters on the electromagnetic spectrum and
are unwilling to share with anyone else. LightSquared also explicitly states
that existing high-precision GPS equipment is defective by design and that LightSquared
should not be denied because of inferior GPS equipment that is incapable of
filtering out signal interference from the LightSquared network. Their campaign
includes several fantastic-sounding solutions and minimization-of-impact
remedies. The most widely circulated claim is that only a fraction (0.5%) of
all GPS receivers are affected by the LightSquared signal. This is an ironic claim
because the very 0.5% to which they refer affects 100% of the United States’ population.
LightSquared does not deny the existence of the disabling interference between
their signal and GPS; however, they downplay the significance of the disruption
by their repeated attempts at discrediting the GPS community. These tactics
have been effective against the overwhelming evidence to the contrary presented
by GPS industry supporters. The continuing debate in light of overwhelming
evidence indicates that the facts are irrelevant to the matter at hand (GPS
being disabled by LightSquared interference), and that the decision will be a
negotiated one between the FCC and the LightSquared supporters. The decisions
made so far in the application process are indicative of a desired outcome,
which supports the more popular LightSquared business plan.
The LightSquared campaign is well
orchestrated and is constantly adapting to the needs of its interested parties.
This is not surprising as the company has invested billions of dollars in
advance of the permit; taking great risk with its investments and reputation. Few
members in the GPS community have taken the effort to investigate the business
plan of LightSquared and its potential for advancing wireless information distribution.
The popularity of high-speed wireless service is something that American
taxpayers, registered voters, and stockholders can physically hold in their
hands and experience with the latest electronic gadget. These devices,
ironically, have global positioning applications to assist the user find a
restaurant, nightclub, or any number of popular destinations. From the typical
wireless customer’s perspective, this is the extent of their GPS use.
The indirect use of GPS is
ubiquitous, yet unseen to the typical wireless consumer. The components within their
mobile devices were mined using high-precision GPS-guided machines, shipped
using navigational GPS, and tracked with GPS-enabled programs. Many foods
originate at farms that use precision GPS to plow, plant, fertilize, and
harvest with greater efficiency and less waste. Road are constructed using
earth-moving equipment guided by precision GPS, and jumbo jets are guided by
GPS in order to get passengers safely home for the holidays. Few people think
of GPS even when they see an airliner taking to the sky or glimpse a satellite as
a moving star in the night sky, but GPS is everywhere – always operating for
the benefit of the country’s infrastructure.
Although it is not expected for a
typical startup company to understand GPS in meticulous detail, this is not the
case for a space-based wireless service provider with its own satellite
constellation. With this major oversight undermining LightSquared’s FCC permit,
the only viable solution remaining for LightSquared is to discredit the entire
GPS community in both reputation and relevance. These attempts have included the
classic methods such as data manipulation, false accusations, and inferring
that the GPS industry is the cause of the interference. Although perceived as
unethical and unprofessional by the GPS community, it is perfectly legal and
highly effective. LightSquared has used the ultra-scientific nature of GPS to
its advantage by classifying the high-precision GPS users as fringe groups of
outcasts who are sabotaging the future with their rotary-phone-era technology.
This stereotype is amusing even to professional GPS users in the context of a
cartoon; however, it is dangerous when actually perceived as such by
individuals in positions of authority. LightSquared’s most impressive skill is
their ability to convince the decision-making members of various bodies into
believing that the facts of the interference issue are not only irrelevant, but
also non-existent. Some GPS supporters have even sarcastically accused these
groups of repealing the laws of physics by a majority vote.
The GPS community states that
since the laws of physics prevent the LightSquared network from operating
without disabling GPS, the LightSquared FCC permit application must be
rejected. This is an undisputed fact and is a sound argument in the physical world;
however, the pertinent laws of physics simply do not apply to the imaginative
world of politics. The oversimplified comparison is one of an illusionist’s
performance. If the magician can make the illusion appear convincing to the
audience, the laws of physics are ignored and the next show is sold out – even
though nobody believes the magician’s assistant was bisected by a saw and
miraculously healed. Wireless customers will more likely believe an
entertaining impossibility that they can hold in their hand, instead of the
ethereal reality of GPS physics.
Supporters of GPS are now
entrenched in their position – awaiting the final imminent assault from LightSquared.
The GPS community is confident that they will be victorious in their struggle having
the laws of physics on their side; however, the reality of the situation must
not be underestimated. GPS is facing an adversary who is billions of times more
powerful and who is supported by the most powerful element of physics – time.
The LightSquared supporters have more advanced weapons to hurl at GPS as well
as a dangerously effective commercial propaganda program. Since the GPS signal
cannot retreat to another part of the spectrum, the only options remaining are
either for LightSquared to abandon its assault on GPS, or for the GPS community
to stand and fight wave-after-wave of wireless network applications.
Unfortunately, being 100% correct will not be enough to repel this invasion. No
matter how overwhelming the facts related to the issue are, they will have
little impact on the outcome of this conflict. The FCC will choose the victor
by popularity or by agreements between outside parties.
The FCC approval process is not a
trial by jury. It is not subject to the same standards of evidence for even a
civil case, nor is there a burden of proof to overcome. The facts are not
weighed on an equal scale and the conclusions reached are not required to
address the facts. The decision that is reached is one which is in the best
interest of the FCC regardless of any overwhelming evidence presented during
the process. The outcome of this process will be decided by the party with the more
effective powers of persuasion, not by the strengths of the facts presented.