The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday announced that they were denying LightSquared's application to build a new wireless network after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration concluded that the risk of interference with GPS devices can't be eliminated. NTIA found interference with dozens of devices that rely on GPS during testing. Everything from personal navigation programs to aircraft control systems could be jeopardized.
Last year the FCC gave tentative approval to LightSquared provided the government found satisfactory evidence that any problems that would be caused by using the frequency adjacent to GPS were addressed. With Tuesday's decision the application for building the network will be rejected and the tentative approval given last year will be revoked. These decisions do require a public comment period and FCC commissioners could potentially overturn the decision. However several agencies, companies and farm groups are firmly entrenched against it.
Farm groups have been concerned that LightSquared's network would interfere with GPS farm guidance systems. American Soybean Association President Steve Wellman says they are very pleased that FCC has acted to prevent adverse effects on farmers.
"Tuesday's decision by the FCC is certainly a great relief for more than 600,000 soybean farmers across the country who use GPS technology to precision-apply seed and fertilizer; to test fields for fertility and to monitor yields; to reduce chemical and fuel use; and to map field boundaries, roads, irrigation systems," Wellman said. "GPS technology has enabled farmers to produce more food for a growing world population with fewer inputs."
While Wellman says ASA supports finding solutions to help expand broadband access in rural areas, he also says it must not be at the expense of GPS precision farming systems.
"Farmers invest thousands of dollars in high-precision GPS equipment and applications to run more efficient, sustainable, cost-effective and productive farms," Wellman said. "The LightSquared network would have rendered that investment - not to mention the consumer GPS market projected to reach almost $29 billion in the U.S. by 2015 - all but useless. The FCC's decision this week is one that is in the best interests of both the American farmer and the American consumer."