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New legislation protects against GPS interference

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A new Senate bill, backed by 80 agriculture and other industry organizations, would ensure farmers and countless others who rely on GPS would not have to pay to fix interference issues created by Ligado Networks’ operation on the broadband spectrum.

U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Jack Reed (D-RI), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced S. 2166, the Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act, also known as RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act.

The bipartisan legislation will require Ligado to cover the cost for correcting any interference their operations create for the public or private sector. While the Ligado Order says that they must upgrade or replace government devices that are impacted by the order, it isn’t specific about what those costs are and is silent on the private sector. This bill specifically outlines that all the areas of potential costs that must be borne by Ligado, including but not limited to engineering, construction, site acquisition, research, personnel or contracting staff, labor costs, etc, and specifically notes that these apply to those impacted in the private sector as well.

In the letter, the organizations emphasized the importance of GPS for our society. “The reliability of GPS and satellite communications is necessary for safety of life operations, national security and economic activity; critical communications capabilities; commercial and civil aviation; first responders, 9-1-1 and other public safety operators; military readiness and communications; weather forecasting; the movement of goods on our highways; the marking maritime harbors and channels; farmers planting and harvesting crops; operation of construction and mining equipment—and the list goes on and on.”

Rounds said, “ In April 2020, the FCC acknowledged that Ligado Networks would be responsible for paying the federal government for any harm it causes to GPS signals while it modifies the spectrum. However, it’s not just the federal government that will be impacted by interference to GPS signals. The majority of GPS devices in this country are used by American consumers, private sector businesses, aviation-associated industries and local governments. Our bill will hold Ligado responsible for paying the cost for correcting any interference caused to the public and private sector as a result of its deployment of its new wireless network.”

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