Hill Warned Against Usurping FCC Authority

A number of supporters of the FCC's Ligado decision have warned Congress not to try to use the appropriations process--via language in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)--to undo that decision at the behest of the Defense Department, saying it would be tantamount to sabotaging the FCC's spectrum authority. 

Related: FCC Proposes Approving Ligado Application

The FCC has already unanimously granted the Ligado proposal (formerly LightSquared) to use satellite spectrum adjacent to GPS spectrum for terrestrial broadband so long as it meets various conditions to prevent interference with that adjacent GPS, but that hasn't stopped critics on the Hill and in the Trump Administration from slamming the decision and trying to reverse it.  

Related: Senate Commerce Hosts Rousing Ligado Debate 

In a letter to congressional leaders, Public Knowledge, INCOMPAS, the Open Technology Institute and others pointed to efforts by the Department of Defense, which said Ligado would cause interference to critical systems like missile guidance, to block the decision. 

"As we write, there are intense efforts underway to do exactly that, via current language in the House and Senate versions of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that ultimately seek to reverse the FCC’s recent bipartisan and unanimous approval of Ligado Networks’ regulatory plans," they wrote.  

Related: FCC Faces Slew of Ligado-Slamming Petitions

They argued that would give DOD a veto of commercial spectrum authorizations. "While we respect the role of the Armed Service Committees to provide legislative oversight of the nation’s military, by rule of law, commercial spectrum decisions remain the sole authority of the FCC. Congress should not attempt to sabotage that authority..." 

Also signing on to the letter were the California Center for Rural Policy, Center for Rural Strategies, Lincoln Network, Media Alliance, Taxpayers Protection Alliance and Wireless Infrastructure Association. 

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.