BoatUS urges feedback on GPS decision

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Although boaters view the Federal Communications Commission’s recent vote to revoke approval of a new broadband telephone network shown to interfere with the country’s sole navigational system as positive news, BoatUS said, “We aren’t out of the woods just yet.”

The association is urging boat owners to continue to submit comments to the FCC by a Thursday deadline to ensure that the nation’s system of global positioning devices keeps boaters safely on course.

Last summer, more than 18,000 boaters, along with many other GPS users, wrote the FCC, asking it to stop plans by LightSquared, the builder of the proposed broadband network, until independent tests proved there would be no interference with GPS devices, which operate on adjacent frequencies.

“Despite the great news … that the FCC has acknowledged interference issues with the LightSquared proposal, we’re not ready to declare a victory,” BoatUS president Margaret Podlich said in a statement. “Given this company’s tenacity over the last year, we want to make sure that boaters’ needs are remembered as the FCC makes their final decision.”

Here is how to file comments to the FCC through their online comment form:

1. Click on this link for the FCC’s Electronic Comments Filing System.

2. Select “Proceeding Number 11-109.”

3. Enter contact information.

4. In the box that says “Type in or paste your brief comments,” here’s some points to select from:

* Explain how you use GPS in your life — on the water, on land or in the air.

* What would happen to your business/personal life if GPS became unavailable or unreliable?

* Wireless broadband service is important, but it should not come at the expense of GPS.

* All of the studies show that LightSquared’s proposed network would cause interference and that there are no remedies.

5. Click “Continue.”

6. If the review page is correct, click “Confirm.”

If you have any trouble, you can contact the FCC ECFS Helpdesk at (202) 418-0193 or e-mail

Soundings Trade Only editor in chief Bill Sisson wrote about the FCC’s decision on LightSquared in his blog, A View From Here, last Wednesday. Click here to read his post: “A victory for all who rely on GPS.”


3 comments on “BoatUS urges feedback on GPS decision

  1. Tim Canuck

    How could the FCC even THINK of monkeying with GPS. Although recreational boaters have surely come to rely on the terrific advantages that this electronic miracle has over paper charts and compass navigation, I would think that positive commercial uses vastly outnumber boaters. How many lives would be lost if we didn’t have this technology helping to guide our airplanes and ships? Really, if they won’t even let you turn on your iPad in a plane because of possible interference to navigational instruments, how in the world could they intentionally allow even the remote chance of interference.

    GPS would never have advanced as far as it has if the gov hadn’t removed the dithered signals years ago in the Clinton administration. Nowadays countless millions of people have come to rely on the GPS as a reliable, accurate technology. To do anything that would send us back to LORAN would be unimaginable.

    I shake my head!

  2. John Kelly, NAMS-CMS

    As a marine surveyor and advid boater, this got my attention when I first saw this reported in a known sailing magazine; I called an associate of mine in the business of satellite licencing for comments- interesting history and I add them below in quotes:

    …”don’t worry, the FCC is all over this, and in the right way, not the “egg-shell walking” way your attached editorial implies. And you can be sure that the GPS community, the US military, and even some good ol’ US of A companies like John Deere are totally behind the GPS issue, and there isn’t a chance that LightSquared will be allowed to interfere with GPS.

    In fairness to the FCC, let me point out that LightSquared was the brainchild of NASA in the ’80s: a satellite that could provide service to mobile things like cars and boats and planes, just for use in the US. Not only did it not compete with GPS, it was another example of our government doing something right. —- Unfortunately there wasn’t really enough US-only demand for a satellite-based system for mobility, especially since mobile telephones really took off at the same time (early 90s). So AMSC got sold and bought a few times, ending up with the loathed backing of a hedge fund – but what’s a company to do? No one else wanted it. And the name changed a few times (now it’s LightSquared). And somewhere along the line the engineers realized that they could improve the service to customers if they used some terrestrial repeaters to fill in the gaps in service where a satellite couldn’t really get – especially in cities, what they call “urban canyons,” where the view to a satellite is obstructed by buildings, so no service – but if you put in terrestrial repeaters to “augment” your satellite service, you might have a chance of making it a good business. So the FCC grudgingly said alright to that idea a few years back. It’s not so much waffling as trying to be fair to a company that’s been licensed for 20 years.
    The problem with GPS was discovered during fairly recent testing – and the problem is really because the GPS equipment isn’t built well. It doesn’t filter out the signals near it well, and so it receives the LightSquared signals sometimes, even though neither GPS nor LightSquared intended that.”

    However, I don’t get ‘warm fuzzies’ with the Government ‘looking after us’ so I’ll register my concerns with the FCC as Trade Only suggests.

  3. Jules Rutstein

    The NMEA hosted a meeting of the FCC/GMDSS along with a representative from LightSquared (Geoffrey Stearn, VP, Spectrum Development). We drilled him with very technical questions and substantiated concerns. The rep was very knowledgeable and had responses, but they did not address the actual interference problem. Their solution are filters, however the filters have to be installed at the receivers. This is virtually impossible, considering the number of different GPS devices, the size, and the marine environment to contend with. As suggested please continue to send letters to the FCC. This is a political issue and being pushed by the current administration, and remember they got rid of Loran so there is no other option available.

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