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Coalition to Save Our GPS Says LightSquared 'Solution' a 'Non-Starter'

June 30, 2011 – LightSquared’s so-called “solution” to prevent its proposed LTE cellphone network’s known interference with millions of GPS users was dismissed as a “non-starter” by the Coalition to Save Our GPS this week. The coalition, of which EAA is a member, stated the proposed measures would cause massive disruption to millions of Americans in their everyday lives as well as to many critical U.S. economic sectors, including aviation. The coalition’s solution: move out of the MSS band altogether.

LightSquared’s announced “solution” has two components: While acknowledging its 10 MHz blocks of frequencies directly adjacent to GPS spectrum pose interference to many GPS receivers, LightSquared said it would not use that band for “the next several years” but rather would use a second 10 MHz block of the MSS band, slightly further away from GPS. LightSquared also said it would modify its FCC license to reduce the maximum authorized power of its base-station transmitters by more than 50 percent, limiting it to the power it was authorized to use in 2005.

The coalition calls that a “Hail Mary” solution devised before the study group’s findings were completed. “Virtually nothing has actually changed in this ‘new’ proposal relative to what LightSquared pledged at the outset of testing. The power levels don’t change. Nor do the frequencies. In fact, the only thing that has changed is the order in which the channels within the band adjacent to GPS would be deployed,” the coalition said in a statement.

The coalition contends that the only real solution to the LightSquared interference problem is to move out of the MSS band altogether. And in response to a report submitted Thursday, June 30, to the FCC by an FCC-mandated technical working group studying the issue, the coalition stated:
“The FCC technical working group report conclusively shows that LightSquared’s proposed operations defy the law of physics, and therefore simply will not work. The report findings are starkly clear: The only real solution to the LightSquared interference problem is to move out of the MSS band altogether. That’s because going forward with LightSquared’s plans, in all of their various shifting iterations, would cause such widespread harmful interference that it would severely cripple GPS, a national utility upon which millions of Americans rely every day and a critically important tool for a wide variety of industries and government operations that is a mainstay of the U.S. economy.”

The FCC working group report only scratches the surface of the widespread disruption LightSquared’s proposed operations would cause, the coalition statement continued.

The Coalition to Save Our GPS includes a wide variety of industries and companies seeking to resolve LightSquared’s serious threat to the reliability and viability of the Global Positioning System. This week the coalition announced several new members, including major national organizations representing a variety of concerned industries such as public safety, aviation, transportation, construction, technology, recreation, shipping, agriculture, and consumer manufacturers.

Earlier in June, results of two separate tests of LightSquared’s impact on the GPS signal showed in 46 tests that “all the GPS receivers" were affected by LightSquared’s signals, according to FAA official Deane Bunce.

On Thursday, June 23, the House Appropriations Committee approved a joint amendment from representatives Steve Austria (R-Ohio) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) to the financial services subcommittee appropriations bill to ensure that the GPS technology used by the military, firefighters, farmers, pilots, engineers, and many other industries (including local GPS devices used by individuals) will be preserved and not interfered with by any future expansion of broadband.

The FCC working group report only scratches the surface of the widespread disruption LightSquared’s proposed operations would cause. There are 500 million GPS receivers in use in the U.S. alone. These receivers in turn are embedded in tens of thousands of complex systems – from aviation navigation systems to law enforcement dispatch, and millions of pieces of complex equipment ranging from agricultural combines to snowplows for precision guidance. While we know that these systems will be interfered with we have frighteningly little idea of the magnitude of the consequences of interference, other than it will be truly extraordinary in scale. To tamper with these systems based on technical guesswork would be a mistake of monumental proportions.

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