Farm Progress

FCC urged to take action to protect farmers’ GPS

Senators urged FCC to reconsider Ligado Order which could threaten growers ability to use GPS technology.

Jacqui Fatka

August 26, 2022

2 Min Read
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Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., led a bipartisan letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to stay and reconsider the Ligado Order, echoing concerns of 14 federal agencies and other end users, including U.S. farmers who rely on GPS to operate safely and efficiently.

The FCC order went into effect April 2020 and allows Ligado Networks to establish a wireless network that will threaten the reception capability of hundreds of millions of GPS devices and growers’ abilities to use GPS technology in their operations. Because growers heavily rely upon navigation systems and precision technology, the prospect of GPS units not working is alarming to soybean farmers, the American Soybean Association notes.

FCC’s order acknowledges the likelihood of interference to GPS signals and requires Ligado to pay the federal government the costs for repairs but does not specify what those costs are and, importantly, does not currently include the private sector. According to a news release from Inhofe’s office, 99% of the more than 900 million GPS devices across the country are used by the private sector and consumers, as well as state and local governments. Under the current order, private sector businesses like agriculture, or their consumers, are on the hook for repair costs.

In the letter, the senators urged the FCC to set aside the Ligado Order and consider the concerns of the executive branch, within Congress, and from the private sector regarding the imminent risks for national security and other systems.

Related: RETAIN bill protects GPS signals important to farmers

In May 2020, shortly following the issuance of the Ligado Order, on behalf of the executive branch, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration petitioned the FCC to reconsider its decision. That filing requested that the FCC “rescind its approval of the mobile satellite service license modification applications” granted to Ligado, which the NTIA asserted would “cause irreparable harms” to federal government GPS users.

“We remain gravely concerned that the Ligado Order fails to adequately protect adjacent band operations—including those related to GPS and satellite communications—from harmful interference impacting countless military and commercial activities,” the senators write in the letter.

The letter notes staying and reconsidering the Ligado Order is necessary to address the imminent risks associated with Ligado’s intention to “commence operations in the 1526-1536 Mhz band on or after September 30, 2022.”

ASA notes a reliable network is imperative for U.S. soybean farmers who use GPS-enabled precision ag technologies to efficiently and responsibly grow and harvest crops and irrigate their land. ASA has continued pushing for changes to FCC’s Ligado decision and urging the administration and Congress to step in to protect GPS reliability.

Joining Inhofe and Reed were Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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