Trump Admin Seeks Ligado Stay

The Trump Administration has asked the FCC to stay and reconsider its decision to allow Ligado to use satellite spectrum adjacent to GPS for a terrestrial broadband network, exhibiting a clear divide with top House Republicans. 

That came in two FCC filings from the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), the White House's chief communications policy adviser.  

Saying it was filing "on behalf of the executive branch," NTIA said Ligado "should not be permitted to deploy its network until NTIA’s Petition for Reconsideration or Clarification (Petition) is addressed and executive branch concerns of harmful interference to federal government and other GPS devices are satisfactorily resolved." 

NTIA was referencing a petition for reconsideration it had filed saying the FCC needed to conduct further testing and the order at least modified to prevent harmful interference. 

The FCC voted unanimously to allow Ligado to proceed, conditioned on power limits, a "kill switch" if interference resulted, based on FCC engineering assessments FCC chair Ajit Pai said made the item good to go. 

But NTIA said that was hardly the case: Based on what it said were the FCC's "unworkable conditions while still uncertain whether GPS receivers critical to national security and public safety would experience remediable harmful interference," NITA said the FCC needs to stay the order and, essentially, go back to the condition drawing board.  

To grant the stay, the FCC would have to conclude that NITA was likely to prevail on the merits, would suffer "irreparable harm" absent a stay, that the stay would not hurt other parties, and that a stay is in the public interest.  

NTIA said its petition meets that four-part test.

Some top House Republicans have sided with the FCC. But there is plenty of division in Congress over the issue.

The FCC got letters from members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and from both sides of the aisle, asking it to stay the decision and/or rethink it. 

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing three weeks ago, chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said a few powerful people had rushed a hasty decision over the weekend (referring to the FCC) that the President (a big DOD fan) was not clued-in on, something he said he knew first hand was the case. 

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.