Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Keep GPS WorkingFri, 25 Jun 2021 08:30:23 CDT
Members of Congress introduced bipartisan legislation this week to keep GPS reliable and ensure unfair cost burdens won’t fall on U.S. farmers or other end users who rely on the network to operate safely and efficiently.
The Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act, or RETAIN, was introduced by U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (R-R.I.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) this week in response to the Federal Communication Commission’s Ligado Order.
To build on its previous advocacy on this issue, ASA and other groups signed a letter in support of the RETAIN Act this week, thanking lawmakers leading the bill, and has been participating in an extensive social media campaign.
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.
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 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.
The RETAIN ACT would require Ligado to cover the cost of correcting any interference its operations create and specifically outlines the areas of potential costs, including engineering, construction, site acquisition, research, personnel or contracting staff and labor costs. For agriculture, this means Ligado would need to upgrade, repair, or replace any farm equipment impacted by Ligado. The bill also specifically notes these costs apply to those impacted in both the public and private sector.
ASA urges changes to FCC’s Ligado decision and will continue prompting the Biden administration and Congress to step in to protect GPS reliability.
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