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August 09, 2021

Inhofe Speaks on Senate Floor, Provides Update on Ligado Order

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) spoke on the Senate floor and provided an update on the Ligado Order.

As Prepared for Delivery:

I want to provide an update on the Ligado issue.

Friday was the inaugural day of the “Space Beat Memo” – a new weekly newsletter from Politico.

This memo, designed to focus on space and satellites, opened their first ever newsletter with a great rundown of the Ligado issue.

Just to remind everyone what we’re talking about: the Ligado Order was a spectrum sale approval from April 2020, that will let Ligado use the L-band, or the spectrum close to the GPS spectrum for commercial use.

Why is that a problem? Well, Ligado’s signals are about 2 billion times as powerful as GPS signals, so they will cause interference to GPS.

Here is one way to put the interference into perspective. Because GPS signals travel from satellites in space, by the time those signals get to Earth’s surface, they are low power.

Because the FCC Order allows Ligado to repurpose spectrum to operate a terrestrial-based network, Ligado signals on Earth’s surface will be much more powerful than GPS, causing substantial and harmful interference.

Now, we know that basically everyone in government opposes this. I talked about this on June 23 down here on the floor.

Shortly after the Ligado Order was announced in April of 2020, the NTIA filed a petition for reconsideration, basically a petition asking them to consider their decision again given the negative impact it would have. This was signed and on behalf of 15 government agencies.

The NTIA is the National Telecommunications and Information Administration – they are an agency within the Department of Commerce that serves as the President’s primary adviser on all telecom policies.

And, as I announced June 23rd – I recently received a letter from Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, confirming that “there has been no change to the Department of Commerce’s or NTIA’s opposition to the FCC’s Ligado Order.”

She also pledged that the 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.

This is huge. This showed, once again, that there is bipartisan opposition to the Ligado Order that is continuing into the Biden administration.

But that’s not all I am doing. I also introduced the RETAIN GPS Act, which would ensure federal agencies, state governments and all others negatively impacted by the actions of a private actor are not left holding the bag when it comes to costs – and worse, aren’t put in the position where they have to push the costs onto American consumers.

The House has introduced the legislation as well, led by Reps. Jim Cooper, Mike Turner, Frank Lucas, GT Thompson, Ken Calvert, Nadia Velazquez, Abigail Spanberger, and Don Beyer.

It is just common sense – and only fair. As David Grossman, the Executive Director of the GPS Innovation Alliance, said to Politico:

“The RETAIN Act is just extending those protections that the FCC recognized were critical for federal agency GPS systems on the civil side.”

The GPS Innovation Alliance is just one of more than 100 – more than one hundred! – companies and industry groups that support my RETAIN GPS Act.

Why is it so popular? Because GPS is essential to everything we do.

Here are some of the day to day activities that will be difficult when we’re experiencing GPS interference from Ligado.

A big one – using your credit or debit card. When you are making a purchase or using an ATM, our financial systems rely on GPS timing to work.

Another – making a phone call. 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.

Here is one most people don’t expect: energy, whether that is filling up your tank at the pump or managing electrical grids to light our homes. We rely on GPS timing to safely operate underground pipelines and our electricity grid,

Farmers and ranchers depend on GPS and satellite communication when planting crops, applying fertilizer, and during harvesting operations to move large and critical machinery with precision.

Working out. A study last year found that one-fifth – 20 percent – of all Americans use a fitness tracker or smartwatch, the majority of which use GPS to count steps and track distance.

Taking a flight. Commercial and civil aviation rely on GPS navigation and satellite communications to operate safely.

Driving around. Each day, countless Americans rely on Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, or any of the other navigation systems to get them from point A to point B.

And, while no one hopes they ever need a fire truck, ambulance or other emergency services – 9/11 operators and EMS use GPS and satellite communication to locate a caller and navigate as quickly as possible. We know in these instances that every minute is critical.

There is more: weather forecasting; the movement of goods on our highways; surveying maritime harbors and channels; operation of construction and mining equipment—the list goes on and on.

So that’s why everyone agrees – we need to protect GPS usage from being damaged by the Ligado Order.

And who is on the other side? Just Ligado and the people they pay to support them.

The Politico article highlighted that they are staffing up their lobbying and public relations. “…so far this year the Virginia company has enlisted a powerful roster of lobbying firms—currently numbering 15…”

So again – on the side of GPS and satellite communications are members of the House and Senate, 15 federal agencies and over 100 companies and organizations. The other – Ligado and their paid shills. 

I’ll just leave with one reminder. We know that the Ligado Order will damage GPS. The FCC said as much when they approved the order.

The FCC said: “Ligado shall expeditiously repair or replace as needed any U.S. Government GPS devices that experience or are likely to experience harmful interference from Ligado’s operations.”

But if Ligado believes their own press when they say they won’t cause interference to GPS, then why should they be afraid of my RETAIN GPS Act?

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