Opening statement from Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
September 8, 2011
Good afternoon. Welcome to today’s hearing titled “Impacts of the LightSquared Network on Federal Science Activities.” The
is the clear leader in precision, navigation, and timing because of its consistent investment in the Global Positioning System. This investment has been protected and reaffirmed by successive Administrations’ support, which has led to one of the greatest technological achievements this nation has ever created. It is one that both government and industry can be proud of and is the gold standard for billions of people around the world. While it is nearly impossible to quantify the exact impact GPS has had on society, it has certainly had an enormous impact on economic productivity, furthered scientific understanding, and modernized our national defense. Some recent reports estimate GPS enables over $3 trillion in direct and indirect economic activity and has created over three million jobs – a fact that should not be overlooked with the President preparing to speak before Congress in a few short hours on the state of our economy. United States
In addition to its economic significance, the Global Positioning System is also an important aspect of many federal operations and scientific activities. Aerial and satellite imagery, weather forecasting, climate observation, search and rescue, air traffic management, rail transportation, traffic management, vessel navigation, emergency response and mapping, time distribution, seismic monitoring, land surveys, resource management, agriculture, engineering and scientific observations all depend upon GPS. Any potential disruption to GPS, and the science activities that it supports, is of utmost concern to this Committee.
LightSquared has proposed a network to support the President’s challenge to identify 500 megahertz of new spectrum for broadband service. While the President’s goal is certainly commendable, it should not be accomplished by destroying existing systems and applications.
As the President’s own National Space Policy states, the
must “maintain its leadership in the service, provision, and use of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS),” and “[i]nvest in domestic capabilities and support international activities to detect, mitigate, and increase resiliency to harmful interference to GPS.” United States
The purpose of this hearing is to examine the potential impact of the LightSquared network on Federal science activities. In doing so, we hope to ensure that all of the affected agencies are aware of the potential issues, have communicated those concerns effectively, are identifying potential mitigation strategies, and are calculating the costs associated with those mitigation strategies. In preparing for this hearing, we have seen varying degrees of preparation by agencies. Some have done the expected due diligence and some clearly have not.
Although the FCC has stated that it will not allow LightSquared to begin commercial service without first resolving the interference issue, nothing actually prevents the FCC from moving forward at this point. Since the testing that was conducted this spring and summer, LightSquared has put forth a modified plan. Unfortunately, no testing has been done on this modified plan. I agree with the agencies before us today that additional testing should be required before the FCC allows LightSquared to begin commercial service.
Ensuring that GPS is protected is a vital national interest. Its economic impact is clear, and its utility to science is unquestionable, but what is also important is the real impact on lives. Last month the FAA announced that LightSquared’s previous proposal would result in billions of dollars of investment lost, a decade of delays to ongoing projects, a cost impact of roughly $72 billion, and almost 800 additional fatalities – and that is just one Administration. Compromises to GPS would also benefit foreign systems and threaten
leadership. As we have recently seen, dependence on U.S. Russia for access to the International Space Station has already compromised interests. Reliance on U.S. Russia’s GLONASS system, China’s COMPASS system, or Europe’s GALILEO system for precision, navigation, and timing would be just as costly.
We have to find a way to open up more spectrum for broadband, but not at the expense of GPS.
This is, however, a two way street. GPS users and agencies also have to be mindful that developing applications outside of their spectrum is dangerous and ripe for conflict, even though previous there were no problems.
And if that wasn't compelling, consider these...
HR 2596. Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act
Committee Report 112-169:
Spectrum interference issues.—The Committee is aware that NTIA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are in the midst of a regulatory process with respect to the Global Positioning System and that a technical working group is reviewing potential interference issues. NTIA is directed to report to the Committee following completion of the technical working group activities, but no later than August 1, 2011, regarding the discoveries of this technical working group and the scientific steps necessary to address any potential interference concerns.
HR 2434. Financial Service Appropriations Act
None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Federal Communications Commission to remove the conditions imposed on commercial terrestrial operations in the Order and Authorization adopted by the Commission on January 26, 2011 (DA 11-133), or otherwise permit such operations, until the Commission has resolved concerns of potential widespread harmful interference by such commercial terrestrial operations to commercially available Global Positioning System devices.
Committee Report 112-136:
The Committee is aware of concerns related to possible interference to Global Positioning System (GPS) devices due to terrestrial broadband service. The Committee remains engaged on this issue and awaits the final report by the Technical Working Group.
HR 1540. National Defense Authorization Act, 2012
Committee Report 112-78:
The committee is aware that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a conditional order to a commercial communications company on January 26, 2011, authorizing it to provide broadband voice and data communications services that potentially interfere with GPS. The committee recognizes that the Armed Forces are highly dependent on GPS capabilities and services. The committee believes that any space-based or terrestrial-based commercial communications service that has the potential to interfere with GPS should not receive final authorization to provide service within the
by the FCC unless and until the potential interference with GPS is resolved. Such commercial services are planned to be transmitted from 40,000 land-based towers across the United States . The committee understands, based on information received from the Air Force, that the signal strength of such service is estimated to be one billion times more powerful than the GPS signal. Though the commercial service would broadcast on a frequency adjacent to GPS, it may still overwhelm GPS receivers, potentially causing a denial of service for millions of users in the United States relying on GPS navigation and timing services. Such users included the military, emergency responders, maritime and aeronautical emergency communication systems, banking transactions, air traffic and ground transportation systems, and myriad commercial applications. The committee understands that the Deputy Secretary of Defense sent a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on January 12, 2011, highlighting the "strong potential for interference to . . . critical national security systems," and "strongly recommend[ing] deferral of final action on [the FCC order and authorization] until the proper interference analysis and mitigation studies can be conducted." United States
HR 2112. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012
Committee Report 112-101:
GPS Interference.—The Committee recognizes that the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) is critical to USDA‘s mission, including natural resource monitoring, forest firefighting, law enforcement, and research. In addition, precision agriculture would not be possible without GPS. It is estimated that
farmers and ranchers have invested more than $3 billion in GPS technologies. U.S.
The Committee is aware of a decision by the Federal Communications Commission that may disrupt the use of GPS, causing significant problems for USDA and our Nation‘s farmers and ranchers. The Committee directs USDA to ensure the FCC is aware of these concerns and to work with other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation, to address them.