The National Telecommunications and Information Administration remains opposed to the FCC’s okay in 2020 to Ligado Networks’ plan to build out a broadband network in the L-band for mobile transmissions. That’s despite the change in administrations.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) broke that news last week. He noted that 15 government agencies opposed the decision based on safety concerns. He asked the FCC and NTIA to reverse what he called a “harmful” order.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Inhofe there’s been no change to NTIA’s opposition to the FCC’s Ligado Order. “She also pledged that NTIA will continue to pursue the petition for reconsideration—the petition that represents the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Interior, Justice, Homeland Security, Energy and Transportation – not to mention NASA, FAA and more,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor. Raimondo told the Senator that NTIA’s petition remains pending at the Commission.
“This is huge,” said Inhofe, according to a transcript. It shows there’s bipartisan concern, he added. He called the Order “devastating” to public safety and national defense. That’s because the Department of Defense and other defense-related agencies said allowing Ligado, formerly Lightsquared, to operate on L-band alongside satellites would disrupt GPS and satellite communications.
Cell phone calls would be disrupted as well, according to the Senator. “Cell phone networks rely on GPS to synchronize cell towers so calls can be passed seamlessly. If they experienced interference, your call could drop when moving from tower to tower.”
When the FCC approved the Ligado Order, it said the company should “expeditiously” repair or replace any U.S. government device that experiences harmful interference. But it didn’t specify Ligado would be required to pay for replacements. Inhofe’s bill, Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act of 2021—the RETAIN Act, would close that loophole, he says.
Defense agencies told the FCC that requiring them to prove interference after it occurs is impractical for weapons guidance. They say lives will be lost, Inside Towers reported.
Inhofe says companion House legislation was introduced last week to his RETAIN Act.
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