Good news on the U.S. infrastructure front: The FCC has approved a weird new national wireless system that will maybe create some new jobs! The bad news, according to USA Today, is that the powerful new cell towers “will create vast zones where motorists can’t find GPS directions, smart phones will lose functionality, and 911 emergency systems will be confounded.” And jetliners will fall out of the sky once they run out of fuel, as pilots will lose their GPS bearings while trying to land. Maybe we should just stop trying.
Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission gave a license to a Virginia company called LightSquared, authorizing the construction of some 40,000 cell towers nationwide. But the GPS industry and other government agencies (including the U.S. Air Force Space Command) say this new LightSquared network is going to overwhelm the GPS signal wherever people and cities and airports tend to be — over a million square miles of America.
Luckily, LightSquared and all the GPS industry players and the affected government agencies and the airports and airlines have come together in a working group, hooray? And according to the industry newsletter GPS World, it’s not like this clusterfuck is a surprise to anyone:
Also, in March of 2010, it was the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that called for 500 MHz of spectrum to be found and made newly available, as part of the National Broadband Plan.
In June 2010, President Obama further directed all executive branches of government to do just that: find it! This directive included the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation, which might otherwise have resisted attempts to enter what they consider their spectrum territory; they were firmly told to assist. In February 2011 — after the FCC granted the conditional waiver to LightSquared for ancillary terrestrial transmitters — the President reiterated this commitment.
As this recent history was reviewed for the audience at the Munich Satellite Navigation Summit, some attendees felt a distinct chill as the political muscle behind this move swam more clearly into focus.
So now the FCC says they’ll maybe make this Virginia company maybe test this new network and the signal strength and all that, maybe — even though the FCC already granted the license, because why test a new nationwide cell network that will wreck all location-based electronics? [USA Today/GPS World]