Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) placed a hold on the re-nomination of Michael O’Rielly as an FCC Commissioner. Inhofe wants O’Rielly to say he will vote to overturn the Ligado Order. The outcome could threaten O’Rielly’s position at the Commission.
L-Band, the frequency range between 1 to 2 GHz, is vital to GPS and other international navigation systems because it can easily penetrate clouds, fog, rain and vegetation. Ligado owns a license to operate the spectrum near GPS, which it says it will use to build a 5G network.
Opponents — including the Department of Defense and security agencies — argue that Ligado’s plan would create harmful interference with GPS, hurting both warfighters and commercial ventures in the U.S.
“Over the past few months, I have sent letters, held hearings and called countless officials to highlight what we all know to be true: the FCC’s Ligado Order is flawed and will lead to significant harm to our military and the thousands of individuals and businesses that rely on GPS,” said Inhofe yesterday. On May 22, the federal government formally requested the FCC reconsider its position.
“I am holding Commissioner O’Rielly’s nomination until he publicly states that he will vote to overturn the current Ligado Order. I understand that O’Rielly has stated that he would give ‘due consideration to a stay’ ‘based on new data or evidence’ – but that isn’t enough,” Inhofe emphasized. “This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition. All of America can’t be wrong, and he understands that. I need his commitment in plain English to vote to overturn the order, not just consider it, before I will allow his nomination to proceed.”
It’s unclear how much pressure that hold would apply to the FCC’s handling of the Ligado item. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai controls the agenda, not O’Rielly.
O’Rielly is one of three GOP appointees to the FCC. It’s unusual for a Republican senator to place a hold on a member of his own party, but the Ligado situation has created an unusual alliance that cuts across party, chamber and committee jurisdiction, according to C4ISRNET. Should the hold last through the end of the year, O’Rielly would have to step down from the commission.
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