House Version of Ligado Interference Compensation Bill Introduced

(Image credit: Future Media)

A House version of a bill has been introduced that would mandate that Ligado pay for correcting any interference to GPS equipment that their use of satellite spectrum for a 5G terrestrial network may cause. The lead co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill are Rep. Jim Turner (D-Tenn.) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed late last year, put guard rails around an FCC decision that allows Ligado to use satellite spectrum adjacent to GPS for terrestrial 5G, but the bill, the Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act (RETAIN Act), would make sure it hit Ligado in the pocketbook if that use creates interference to those critical systems.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the Senate version last month.

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.

The FCC unanimously voted to approve Ligado's application to deploy a low-power terrestrial 5G network in the L-Band satellite spectrum.

GPS companies and users had pushed back on the application, saying they could face interference to critical services, but FCC engineers said that harmful interference could be avoided, including by requiring a guard band of spectrum between Ligado and adjacent-band GPS and a 99% reduction in power levels from Ligado's 2015 application.

“The RETAIN Act would extend economic protection to any GPS-enabled equipment disrupted by Ligado, finishing the job FCC started with earlier regulatory action,” said another bill co-sponsor, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “We cannot ignore the economic impact and safety implications that Ligado’s network poses to our nation’s first responders, pilots, local municipalities, and consumers. This bill is a commonsense measure for Virginia’s 8th District and I’m proud to support it.”

"On behalf of the GPS industry, the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) is proud to support the House introduction of the bipartisan RETAIN GPS Act," said executive director David Grossman. "This legislation, in addition to the Senate’s RETAIN GPS Act (S.2166), will work to protect civilians, consumers, and small businesses from paying the price for the FCC’s April 2020 decision to authorize the deployment of a nationwide terrestrial wireless network by Ligado Networks. With this legislation, millions of Americans dependent on GPS for agriculture, aviation, construction, municipal and emergency services won’t be left to pay the price when their devices experience harmful interference."

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.