FCC Blocked From Spending Money on LightSquared’s GPS Testing

Lawmakers in a US House of Representatives committee passed a bill last week that would block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from spending any money granting LightSquared permission to move forward with its proposed network.

Lawmakers were referring to the fact that the FCC had waived certain rules affecting LightSquared’s network plans earlier this year, allowing the company to build a hybrid satellite and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network – as long as it tested for and solved interference with GPS system signals.  Since then, members of the GPS industry and some lawmakers have attacked the plan and said the FCC’s waiver is hazardous to the GPS system.

During the meeting before Congress, representatives of federal agencies and industry groups testified that LightSquared’s current network plan would hobble GPS receivers used for aviation, navigation, agriculture, defense and dozens of other purposes. The U.S. Coast Guard and departments of Defense and Transportation reported that tests showed LightSquared’s current approach caused unacceptable interference with GPS, endangering a system vital to national defense and commerce.

Other witnesses also were skeptical  about the carrier’s proposal to mitigate interference by changing spectrum bands. Some also slammed the FCC for giving LightSquared a conditional waiver with too little time for debate.

Several members of the GPS industry were even more critical. “LightSquared’s proposal is sort of like driving a lawn mower in a library,” Philip Straub, a vice president of GPS manufacturer Garmin (NASDAQ: GRMN), told a joint House subcommittee. “All of the testing performed to date confirms that the LightSquared system, as currently proposed, will result in a widespread degradation of GPS receiver performance and severely limit the GPS utility as we now know it.”