Twenty three members of the House Armed Services Committee, led by Chairman Adam Smith (D., Wash.) and ranking member Mac Thornberry (R., Texas), have written the FCC to complain about the agency’s unanimous order last month approving Ligado Networks LLC’s license modification request to deploy a nationwide broadband network in the L-band (TR Daily, April 20). In a letter yesterday, the lawmakers asked Commissioners whether they had received classified briefings from the Department of Defense concerning the proceeding.
“We write to you to express our deep concern with the commission’s approval of the subject proceeding,” the lawmakers said. “The national security community was unanimous in the judgement that approval of the use of certain portions of the L band spectrum could pose an unacceptable risk to the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the United States. In addition, other federal and nonfederal users of this spectrum have raised serious concerns, including satellite communications providers and airlines.
“Section 1698 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 prevents the commission from approving commercial terrestrial operations in these bands until 90 days after the commission resolves concerns of widespread harmful interference by such operations to covered GPS devices,” the letter continued. “We are concerned that your approval of any mitigation efforts not rigorously tested and approved by national security technical experts may be inconsistent with the legislative direction to resolve concerns prior to permitting commercial terrestrial operations. We urge the commission to reconsider and impose additional mitigation steps to address the concerns of these users.”
The lawmakers added, “While we understand the applicant argues that the Department of Defense’s (DoD) assessment of harmful interference is not based on any testing data, we want to ensure that the commissioners have independently confirmed this assertion with a classified briefing on the testing done by DoD in conjunction with DOT's Adjacent Band Compatibility Testing referenced in the applicant’s response. It is essential that the commissioners understand the full implications when making a decision of this magnitude.”
“Our committee is actively seeking solutions that will facilitate and direct DoD to share as much spectrum as possible for commercial use, but the nation faces threats that will require DoD to continue to use parts of the spectrum needed for 5G. We must be able to develop solutions that provide for the defense of the nation, and unleash the economic potential of 5G. However, the concerns of national security experts must inform our efforts in advance of our shared goal of safety and economic prosperity,” the letter added.
It asked Commissioners to respond to the following directions and questions within seven days: (1) “Please provide copies of the legal analysis that led the commissioners to their determination despite the unanimous concerns of the national security community, and whether that decision is consistent with the FY17 NDAA requirement to resolve concerns of widespread interference with GPS devices prior to permitting the commercial use of this spectrum.” (2) “Did each commissioner receive a briefing from the Department of Defense on the classified test data contained in the classified report of DoD testing to accompany the Department of Transportation Adjacent Band Compatibility Assessment from April of 2018?” and (3) “For Commissioners [Jessica] Rosenworcel and [Geoffrey] Starks, you issued a joint statement of concurrence, indicating a less than full endorsement of the approval and said the decision was a close call. Do you believe the concerns of the national security community were adequately addressed? Additionally, you expressed concern about the spectrum decision making process. Were there any specific aspects of this decision that concerned you?”
The other committee members signing the letter were Reps. Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.) and Michael Turner (R., Ohio), the respective chairman and ranking member of the strategic forces subcommittee; Reps. Jim Langevin (D., R.I.) and Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), the respective chairman and ranking member of the intelligence, emerging threats, and capabilities subcommittee; Reps. John Garamendi (D., Calif.) and Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.), the respective chairman and ranking member of the readiness subcommittee; Reps. Donald Norcross (D., N.J.) and Rob Bishop (R., Utah), the respective chairman and ranking member of the tactical air and land forces subcommittee; and Reps. Rick Larsen (D., Wash.), Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), Seth Moulton (D., Mass.), Mike Conaway (R., Texas), Gil Cisneros (D., Calif.), Don Bacon (R., Neb.), Veronica Escobar (D., Texas), Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.), Lori Trahan (D., Mass.), Paul Mitchell (R., Mich.), Elaine Luria (D., Va.), Chrissy Houlahan (D., Pa.), and Anthony Brindisi (D., N.Y.).
An FCC spokesperson said the agency was reviewing the House letter.
In its order, the FCC said that its “action provides regulatory certainty to Ligado, ensures adjacent band operations, including Global Positioning System (GPS), are sufficiently protected from harmful interference, and promotes more efficient and effective use of our nation’s spectrum resources by making available additional spectrum for advanced wireless services, including 5G. Ligado’s amended license modification applications significantly reduce the power levels of its operations from its earlier proposals and commit Ligado to providing a significant guard-band in the MSS spectrum to further separate its terrestrial transmissions from neighboring operations in the Radionavigation-Satellite Service (RNSS) allocation.” The FCC also cited coordination and other conditions.
Ligado had no comment today on the House letter.
During a hearing on Wednesday, DoD witnesses and some members of the Senate Armed Services Committee blasted the FCC for its Ligado order, but some senators complained that Ligado and the FCC had not been invited to the hearing, saying they wanted to hear from them to form an opinion on the controversy (TR Daily, May 6). —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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