Legislative Update: RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act

The bill would amend the April 2020 FCC decision that allowed Ligado Networks LLC to use radio spectrum in a way that would affect GPS, and push the cost onto the private sector.

WASHINGTON D.C.一 On June 22 Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), and Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced the RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act, to protect consumers from costs brought on by the Ligado Order from the Federal Communications Commission.

In April 2020 the FCC approved the conditions of Ligado Networks, a private satellite company, to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band for 5G and internet.

The order did include language to protect GPS devices, put limits on the power levels and base stations, and require the company responds to reports of interference with the signal. It also provides cost protections to the federal government for interference or repairs, but the order does not adequately address the private sector or fully address the cost to the government.

“Ligado shall expeditiously repair or replace as needed any U.S. Government GPS devices that experience or are likely to experience harmful interference from Ligado’s operations,” said the 2020 order.

The new bill provides specific protections for the private and business sector as well as the government including coverage of labor costs, equipment replacement, engineering, construction, etc. The bill also ensures that the federal government will receive reimbursement from Ligado Networks for any interference.

“GPS and satellite communications don’t only impact our military—we rely on it for so much of our day to day lives, which is why we need to take steps to protect not just the federal government from the harmful decision, but all state and local governments, private entities and consumers too,” said Inhofe in a June 22 press release. “Our nation has an integrated public and private sector infrastructure to support the reliability and use of GPS and satellite communications to navigate our cars and boats for recreation and commerce…When Ligado’s effort to repurpose spectrum causes interference in the infrastructure of those systems, as tests have shown it will, consumers and taxpayers shouldn’t bear the burden of updating countless systems. That cost should only be borne by the responsible party: Ligado.”

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