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Wisconsin Congressman Stands Up to LightSquared on GPS Issue

Tom Petri
Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)

September 20, 2011 – Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, took the LightSquared wireless company to task over its ad in the Wall Street Journal last week supporting controversial efforts to create a broadband network that could harm the nation’s GPS signals.

Rep. Petri, who represents the district that includes EAA headquarters, wrote to LightSquared Chairman/CEO Sanjiy Ahuja stating the company’s plan to use a radio spectrum adjacent to those used by GPS satellites could harm aviation, emergency response teams, military equipment, and other essential services.

Rep. Petri noted that LightSquared purchased the spectrum at a bargain price because it was not intended for terrestrial operations and “ignores the fact that GPS was located on this part of the spectrum long before LightSquared devised its plan to employ a terrestrial network within the satellite band of a radio spectrum.”

LightSquared has been reported to be working on a technical fix to prevent interference.  Petri says that's fine if they can pull it off without causing an undue burden to GPS users, but in the meantime he contends that the Federal Communications Commission has been far too accommodating in allowing LightSquared to proceed with its plans.

“We appreciate Rep. Petri’s clear message to LightSquared in regards to this threat to the nation’s essential GPS signals,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations. “EAA has outlined these threats to federal policymakers, especially in light of GPS’ importance to aviation safety within the nation’s NextGen navigation system plans.”

LightSquared has also been in the midst of a controversy regarding the Congressional testimony of U.S Air Force Gen. William Sheldon, who said he was asked to change his testimony to make it more favorable toward the company. Gen. Sheldon told Congressional questioners last week that the GPS spectrum was supposed to originally be a “quiet neighborhood,” meaning that lower strength signals could exist near the GPS spectrum.

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