Defense Authorization Bill Targets Ligado

(Image credit: Future Media)

Ligado opponents are cheering on provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NADA)--currently being finalized in Congress, that would put guard rails around an FCC decision that allows Ligado to use satellite spectrum adjacent to GPS for terrestrial 5G.

In a letter to the leadership of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, over four dozen groups ranging from Accuweather to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association to the National Agricultural Aviation Association backed several Ligado-targeted provisions.

The key provisions are House sections 1608 and 1609 and Senate sections 234, 1083, and 6082. The first two would prohibit the Department of Defense from contracting with any entity that uses the relevant satellite spectrum (1525-1559 MHz or 1625.5-1660.5 MHz) for terrestrial operations or from spending any funds to retrofit GPS devices that suffer interference from Ligado Network. The Secretary of Defense could lift that contract provision if he concluded there would be no harmful interference to a DOD GPS device. Given how much DOD has pushed back, that could be a tall order.

Senate section 1803 requires the DOD to estimate the damages stemming from the FCC's Ligado order while section 6082 gives DOD the authority to seek reimbursement for the damages, which already squares with the FCC Ligado order, which requires Ligado to pay for any damages.

The groups are also suggesting it would be a good idea to add a provision to the bill requiring an independent review of the FCC's Ligado decision, which Senate section would do.

After years of trying and a name change, Ligado back in April secured the FCC's go-ahead despite pushback from the Trump Administration, aviation groups, and some in Congress.

RELATED: House Armed Services Committee Members Take Aim at FCC's Ligado Decision

A unanimous Federal Communications Commission approved the application of Ligado, formerly LightSquared, for a terrestrial 5G broadband network using spectrum adjacent to GPS, one of a series of FCC decisions meant to free up more spectrum for 5G. But DOD, with the backing of Armed Services Committee members in both houses of Congress, campaigned hard against Ligado and the FCC decision and continue to try to mitigate what they see as the potential interference to critical navigation and positioning systems.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.