Blog Editor’s Note: Another great job of reporting by Dee Ann Divis. The letter referenced in the article is available on the FCC site here.
Several interesting things to note about this:
- As mentioned by parties on both sides of the issue, it took an exceptionally long time for NTIA to forward a position to the FCC.
- NTIA Asst Secretary David Redl and NTIA Legislative Affairs lead Mike Platt abruptly resigned in May amid reports of confusion and dissension within the administration over spectrum issues.
- NITA’s job is to send the FCC the executive branch’s recommendations on issues. This letter from NTIA to the FCC does not make a recommendation. It says “Despite the considerable efforts to find a satisfactory solution, NTIA, on behalf of the executive branch, is unable to recommend the Commission’s approval of the Ligado applications.”
- Rather than taking an affirmative position one way or the other, the NTIA letter forwards along a year-old letter it received from the National Space-based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee, and a November 2019 letter from the Secretary of Defense to the FCC chairman, both of which strenuously opposed the Ligado applications.
In a letter made public late Friday, the point person for all federal agency use of frequencies told commercial spectrum regulators his agency could not support approval of Ligado Networks’ request to use satellite frequencies for a terrestrial wireless network. Tests have shown that the proposal poses an interference risk to GPS receivers.
“The assessment of the potential impacts of the Ligado proposals has been thorough. Based on these assessments, federal agencies have significant concerns regarding the impact to their missions, national security and the U.S. economy,” wrote Douglas Kinkoph, acting deputy Assistant secretary for communications and information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). “Despite the considerable efforts to find a satisfactory solution, the NTIA, on behalf of the executive branch, is unable to recommend the Commission’s approval of the Ligado applications.”
The Dec. 6 letter was send to Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
“I’m glad that the letter came out. I think it’s a strong letter. I only regret that it is late and I wish they had seen fit to do it earlier,” said Brad Parkinson, co-director of the Stanford Center for Position, Navigation and Time (PNT) and the first vice chair of the nation’s panel of leading GPS experts, the National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board.
This is at least the second time the NTIA has weighed in on a proposal to allow other uses for the frequencies neighboring the GPS band. In 2012 the FCC put on hold a similar proposal by Ligado’s predecessor firm after the NTIA weighed in. That firm, called LightSquared, filed bankruptcy shortly thereafter, emerging a few years later as Ligado. Ligado proposed a more limited plan but the GPS community still considered it an interference risk.