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Appropriations Committee Conditions FCC Funding for LightSquared

Concerns of GPS makers and a number of government agencies have prompted the House Appropriations Committee to attach an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 Financial Services and General Government bill restricting LightSquared's implementation of a hybrid terrestrial/satellite 4G wireless broadband network.

The amendment was approved by voice vote and will now move to the House floor along with the bill.

Republican Reps. Steve Austria (Ohio) and Kevin Yoder (Kan.) introduced the amendment, which would prevent the FCC from spending any money to permit the service "until the Commission has resolved concerns of potential widespread harmful interference by such commercial terrestrial operations to commercially available Global Positioning System devices."

"Too many sectors of the American economy, too many jobs, and too many national security imperatives depend on GPS technology for Congress or the FCC to take this process lightly," Austria said in announcing the amendment's passage. "We must ensure that before any final approval is granted those concerns of possible harmful interference to GPS are completely addressed," said Austria. "This amendment does not prohibit expanding broadband services, but ensures it is done in a responsible manner and does not interfere with existing GPS technology that we depend on each day."

The vote came the same day that government and GPS company witnesses told a joint subcommittee hearing in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Thursday that the FCC should have to test a new LightSquared proposal to address interference concerns before letting the company proceed with its plans, and even then suggested GPS and the network might not be able to coexist in the same band.

The Coalition to Save Our GPS, a wide-ranging coalition whose members range from boat owners and airlines to GPS makers Garmin, and TomTom, praised the legislation and the legislators who backed it. "The vote today puts ‘teeth' into legislation that will protect government and private GPS users from LightSquared's proposal," said Jim Kirkland of Trimble, a founding member of the coalition.