FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended his Commission’s recent action to allow Ligado to use a portion of the L-band spectrum for a 5G mobile and ground network. Members of the House Armed Services Committee recently wrote to all the Commissioners, asking them how they arrived at the decision.
The Department of Defense and numerous other agencies have formally asked the FCC to reverse the decision, calling it dangerous to the use of GPS in weapons and other military uses. Lawmakers said in a recent letter: “We are concerned that your approval of any mitigation efforts not rigorously tested and approved by national security technical experts may be inconsistent with the legislative direction to resolve concerns prior to permitting commercial terrestrial operations. We urge the Commission to reconsider and impose additional mitigation steps to address the concerns of these users.”
Further, lawmakers said they’re seeking solutions to facilitate spectrum-sharing with DoD “as much as possible for commercial use, but the nation faces threats that will require DoD to continue to use parts of the spectrum needed for 5G.”
During a recent hearing they also noted what they called a “rushed” decision to vote on the issue. In response, Pai said the DoD had the draft order for six months before the FCC vote, and had numerous chances over 10 years to file comments.
He’s mindful of the need for national security, Pai stated, however, “The FCC has an important job to do with regard to connectivity generally and 5G specifically – we must position ourselves as a global leader in innovation, technology, and the spectrum resources to support these efforts.” The agency’s 5G Fast Plan emphasizes working to find more ways to maximize efficient use of spectrum for commercial use, he added.
The FCC would, “never take an action that would compromise the safety and security of the American people,” Pai stressed. That’s why the agency adopted “strict conditions to ensure that GPS operations continue to be protected from harmful interference.”
Opponents like the DoD say those interference mitigation efforts are unworkable, because they depend on the device user to report interference. DoD calls that unrealistic, and dangerous in some cases.