US Rep Bass to FCC: GPS Network at Risk of Dangerous Interference

Urges agency to examine GPS interference findings of LightSquared proposal


WASHINGTON – Congressman Charles F. Bass (NH-02) wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late yesterday urging Chairman Julius Genachowski to protect Global Positioning Service (GPS) from potentially harmful interference that could affect economic growth, public safety, transportation systems, and national security. 

Of particular concern is the possibility that the installation and operation of tens of thousands of high-powered base stations in the terrestrial network of LightSquared, a company that plans to offer a mobile broadband network on spectrum immediately adjacent to that of GPS, could overwhelm GPS receivers and create “dead spots” in GPS coverage – detrimentally impacting the millions of GPS users throughout the United States. 

Bass, a member of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said:

“Individuals use GPS devices every day, whether it’s to plan summer road trips or simply to run errands.  In New Hampshire especially, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts have come to rely on GPS while exploring scenic areas like the White Mountains.  Not only is accurate location information important in keeping these individuals out of harm’s way, but GPS is critical in assisting the public safety community to save lives and keep our transportation systems running accurately and safely.  I have serious concerns about LightSquared’s base stations overwhelming this vital network and urge the FCC to thoroughly review this serious matter.”

Today, the FCC will begin to review the interference findings of LightSquared and the GPS community.  Following a report last week of broad-based interference, the Commission’s review and resolution of this matter is critical.

Dale Leibach, spokesman for the Coalition to Save Our GPS, said, “Congressman Bass’ letter echoes the growing concerns in Congress and in the Executive Branch and underscores the severity of the issue. He is to be commended for bringing more attention to the issue, and hopefully bringing us closer to a solution.”

The Coalition to Save Our GPS was formed because of serious concerns about the impact LightSquared’s network would have on critical GPS uses. Today, more than 100,000 companies and millions of people working in industries like aviation, public safety, agriculture, transportation, as well as in the public sector are represented in the Coalition either independently or through trade associations. 

The text of Bass’ letter to the FCC is below:

June 14, 2011

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Following the May 13, 2011 House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing entitled “FCC Process Reform,” we have  significant concerns that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) International Bureau’s recent grant of conditional waiver of the Ancillary Terrestrial Component “integrated service” rule for LightSquared, a Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) licensee of L-Band spectrum, could cause harmful interference to the adjacent-band Global Positioning System (GPS).  Of particular concern is the possibility that the installation and operation of tens of thousands of high-powered base stations in the LightSquared terrestrial network could overwhelm GPS receivers and create “dead spots” in GPS coverage – detrimentally impacting GPS users throughout the United States. 

GPS is a national utility whose services are integral to economic growth, transportation, safety, and U.S. national security.  Today, there are millions of GPS users, ranging from individuals, to federal, state and local governments, to businesses engaged in agriculture and construction.  For example, intelligent transportation systems depend on GPS to improve safety, efficiency and environmental impact; utilities depend on GPS for network timing and synchronization; earthquake, volcano, dam and bridge GPS-based measurement and monitoring systems detect tiny movements used in risk analysis and disaster prediction; construction and surveying applications of GPS enable fewer lane closures, less traffic disruption and faster project completion; and farmers use GPS to reduce waste in chemical and fuel use.  Critically, our nation’s first responders use GPS to respond to E911 calls and to map disasters and coordinate relief efforts.   

The International Bureau’s waiver grant, while conditioned on LightSquared’s addressing the GPS interference concerns before commencing commercial service on its L-Band MSS frequencies, raises several procedural questions.  First, despite the serious issues raised by the LightSquared proposal, the FCC used an abbreviated process to solicit comments and issue a decision.  After that truncated period, a bureau of the FCC, without consideration and a vote by the Commissioners, granted LightSquared’s waiver request – and only then established a working group to perform interference testing.  In the normal course, interference testing is conducted before a new spectrum use is permitted, not afterwards. 

On a matter as important as this, the FCC should follow procedures that best ensure transparency and full deliberation.  Accordingly, we urge the Commission to (1) open to public comment and reply comment, for a period no less than 30 and 45 days, respectively, the technical working group’s final report, due to the FCC no later than June 15, 2011; (2) consult in full with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to determine the complete impact that LightSquared’s operations will have on critical governmental operations and to determine if these federal users have made their own assessments of the impact of LightSquared’s operations on GPS; (3) terminate LightSquared’s conditional authority if the test results and the responsive comments fail to conclusively demonstrate that there will be no harmful interference; and (4) consider any future action on LightSquared’s request at the full Commission level. 

We look forward to your response, and to seeing these recommendations incorporated in the Commission’s further proceedings on this matter.


Charles F. Bass

Member of Congress


Phil Gingrey, M.D.

Member of Congress


Brett Guthrie

Member of Congress