BoatUS petitions FCC on GPS use

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BoatUS said it hand-delivered Tuesday more than 15,000 comments from concerned boaters, sailors and anglers to the Federal Communications Commission, asking the agency to protect the future reliability of GPS across the United States.

The agency is currently considering a request from a private company, LightSquared, to build up to 40,000 ground stations for a new nationwide broadband wireless telephone network that tests have shown could cause significant interference with most GPS signals.

At issue is LightSquared's proposed use of radio frequency bandwidth adjacent to frequencies that are used by the relatively weak GPS signal, according to BoatUS. A conditional waiver was granted in January by the FCC to LightSquared to permit the expansion of land-based use of mobile satellite spectrum, subject to spring testing and public comments.

“We hope these 15,000 comments indicate to the FCC the critical need of having a reliable navigation system, not just for boaters and anglers, but for pilots, drivers, outdoor adventurers and first responders. It is unimaginable that the federal government — the guardian of the bandwidth — would consider approving a proposal with so many problems and grave public safety consequences,” BoatUS vice president of government affairs Margaret Podlich said in a statement.

After losing their only other viable navigation system last year after the Department of Homeland Security shut the Loran system down, boaters now solely rely on GPS for electronic navigation, BoatUS said.

The Coast Guard's emergency search-and-rescue system, Rescue 21, now uses GPS to locate stricken vessels on more than 36,985 miles of coastline. Mariners also rely on GPS-enabled communications with DSC VHF radios to provide location information, as do 406 MHz EPIRBs and PLBs for mayday and man-overboard situations, respectively.

The 30-day public comment period on the FCC permit ends Saturday.

BoatUS is urging citizens around the country to click here to send their comments to the FCC.

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