September 16, 2011 2 Comments
OK are we all confused yet? Yeah, I thought so, me, too. This whole thing is about as clear as mud, so let’s see if we can clear it up a bit.
LightSquared is a wireless company that has a plan to deploy a nationwide wireless 4 LTE (Long Term Evolution) broadband system. The system apparently operates in a frequency spectrum adjacent to the GPS.
Air Force Space Command is a major USAF Command which is tasked with:
Provide Resilient and Cost-Effective Space and Cyberspace Capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation
Amongst other (lots of other) things Space Command is the developer and maintainer of the Global Positioning System(GPS) worldwide. This is one of the greatest contributions the military has made to life in America (and the world) since the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developed the internet, itself. In case you’ve been in hiding, GPS is one of the ways that precision guided munitions are targeted, as well as enabling your cars navigation system and telling the E911 operator where your cellphone is. It is also used in surveying, agriculture and just about every other field imaginable.
The way General Shelton, CINC Space Command put it; GPS was placed in what was reserved to be a quiet portion of the spectrum. Apparently, LightSquared system (on nearby frequencies) is fairly high power, leading to the analogy of trying to talk on the phone at a rock concert. If you haven’t noticed, sometimes in heavy brush or a tunnel or the like your GPS gets lost, that’s because the satellite signals it works off are not very strong. Electricity in space is very expensive and transmitter power is limited.
This is what the Defense Department, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Interior, and almost every other part of the government is objecting to. Nothing to do with their pet companies, just a technical problem.
Now the problem, Lightsquared, like every other entity that uses the radiomagnetic spectrum is required to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Chairman of the FCC is Julius Genachowski a longtime Obama friend and a top 2008 campaign fundraiser. There have been reports about influence being applied by the White House not dissimilar from the Solyndra mess.
The Center for Public Integrity is citing more than 300 pages of documents detailing a trail of LightSquared requests for meetings with White House officials, some citing friendships and fundraising. Read the story
According to the Daily Beast
The Pentagon has worried for months that a project backed by a prominent Democratic donor might interfere with military GPS. Now Congress wants to know if the White House pressured a general to change his testimony.
The four-star Air Force general who oversees Air Force Space Command walked into a highly secured room on Capitol Hill a week ago to give a classified briefing to lawmakers and staff, and dropped a surprise. Pressed by members, Gen. William Shelton said the White House tried to pressure him to change his testimony to make it more favorable to a company tied to a large Democratic donor.
The Guardian UK (of all people) are reporting that:
LightSquared’s plans have been opposed by GPS users, including an industry group named Coalition to Save Our GPS, whose members include consumer GPS navigation makers Garmin and Magellan as well as the Fire Department of New York, airlines and others.
According to the coalition:
LightSquared plans to transmit ground-based radio signals that would be one billion or more times more powerful as received on earth than GPS’s low-powered satellite-based signals, potentially causing severe interference impacting millions of GPS receivers – including those used by the federal agencies, state and local governments, first responders, airlines, mariners, civil engineering, construction and surveying, agriculture, and everyday consumers in their cars and on handheld devices. Read the article.
I grew up in Northwest Indiana suburbs of Chicago and therefore feel familiar enough with this nonsense to say. “Welcome to Chicago on the Potomac.” But that was one thing, endangering national security and all the applications of GPS is of another order of magnitude.
The other thing is; telecommunication policy has long been rife with politics. The FCC is a separate agency to try to solve that very problem but, it has always been a major haven for crony capitalism.
All in all, this hasn’t been a very good week for Obama; Fast and Furious is still ongoing, Solyndra blew up, and now LightSquared. Brings to mind the old saying, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like duck, it’s probably a duck”, doesn’t it?
No doubt there will be more to say later.
- Amid LightSquared Controversy, AT&T Unwraps New Network (foxnews.com)
- General Reported He Was Pressured on Testimony About White House-Backed Project, Sources Say (foxnews.com)
- FCC Requiring Additional Testing for LightSquared Network (adweek.com)
- LightSquared execs fire back (politico.com)
- LightSquared: Another Solyndra? (pajamasmedia.com)