Skip to main content

A victory for all who rely on GPS

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Some good news for GPS manufacturers, boaters and millions of other users of the satellite-based navigation system that you may have missed, given that it broke on the eve of the Miami boat shows. The Federal Communications Commission last week said it would block a plan to build a new national wireless broadband network because it interferes with GPS devices.

The move was a major blow to efforts by LightSquared Inc., which is owned by New York hedge fund manager Philip Falcone, whose Harbinger Capital Partners has put billions into the plan for a network to provide Internet and voice services.

The FCC had given LightSquared conditional approval, pending more testing by a national technical working group on the GPS interference problem and possible solutions. The FCC said last week that the tests showed the wireless network would indeed interfere with GPS signals and that there was no practical way at this time to mitigate the problems.

LightSquared called the testing “severely flawed” and said it remained committed to finding a solution with both the federal government and the GPS industry, according to reports. GPS signals operate in a band directly adjacent to the frequency that LightSquared had proposed using.

The planned wireless network was opposed by a broad coalition of GPS manufacturers and user groups, including Garmin, the Pentagon and BoatUS, which last year came together under the Save Our GPS Coalition. Last July, BoatUS, for instance, hand-delivered 15,000 comments to the FCC from boaters who opposed the proposal.

“It is unimaginable that the federal government, the guardian of the bandwidth, would consider approving a proposal with so many problems and grave safety consequences,” BoatUS president Margaret Podlich said at the time. “Any degradation of the GPS signal will shake the confidence of recreational boaters in the nation’s GPS-reliant search-and-rescue systems.”

There are an estimated 100 million GPS devices in use in the United States. LightSquared had suggested that a new filter would correct the interference problem. Opponents said the company had “oversimplified and greatly overstated the significance” of assertions from a single vendor to have solved the interference problem.

The Wall Street Journal, in a story last week, quoted Harold Feld, the legal director for Public Knowledge, a public interest group that supported the LightSquared proposal. “The problem for Falcone is that it’s like buying Florida real estate and not just discovering that you bought swampland, but that it’s a toxic waste dump,” Feld told the newspaper.

The paper said those who know Falcone describe him as a “canny trader who should not be written off.”



ASA Announces Inaugural Tournament

The Keep America Fishing Tournament will run Sept. 1 through Sept. 30.


Expanded Norwalk Show Returns

Organizers are providing additional dock space and boater education programs for the Sept. 22-25 show.


Ribcraft Building RIBS for U.S. Navy

The company said the 278-boat contract is likely the largest ever awarded by the Navy.


Yamaha Expands Technical Training

The company signed an agreement with the Alaska Maritime Education Consortium to bolster training in the state’s remote regions.


OneWater to Distribute Forza X1 Boats

The companies said customers may use the website, an app or kiosk at OneWater locations, as well as in-person with a salesperson.


Boat Prices Plateau, and Some Weaken

A quarterly J.D. Power survey found that prices for all segments remain at near historic highs.


The Customer Isn’t Always Right

Keeping customers happy is a necessary part of relationship-building, but there are situations when the prudent business decision is to cut ties and walk away.


Front Runner Boatworks Hires Director

Jimmy Thompson, whose experience includes dealership sales and management, will oversee the center console builder’s national sales efforts.


Glendinning Marks 50th Anniversary

The South Carolina family business started with automatic synchronizers and today offers a variety of automation solutions.