Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More on GPS Interference

Yesterday while I was perusing the House Armed Services Committee’s report on HR 1540 looking for cyber security related provisions, I came across an interesting discussion (pgs 182-4) about the GPS interference that I reported on this weekend. The discussion is providing a Committee explanation of a provision of the revised version of HR 1540 that is currently being considered by the House Rules Committee in drafting its rule for the consideration of the bill on the floor of the House this week.

The military and a number of other agencies of the Federal government have expressed some concerns about the FCC’s potential approval of the new cell phone service license being sought by LightSpeed. The provision in HR 1540 (§911, Title IX, Subtitle B) would require DOD to report to Congress when it determines that a ‘commercial communications service’ will cause or is causing widespread ‘harmful interference’ with the GPS receivers of DOD. Presumably, then the Congress would react to stop that interference.

According to this discussion the FCC gave conditional approval to LightSpeed in January of this year pending final resolution of the ‘interference’ issue. It also notes that the FCC is scheduled to make their final determination on June 15th. There is a chance that this bill could become law before that date, but it wouldn’t have any direct effect on the FCC’s decision even if it did, it would just require DOD to prepare a report to Congress.

It is disappointing that the discussion says nothing about the potential affect of this interference with control systems. It does mention, in passing, that there is the potential for interference with timing services. That is the portion of this issue that could be of concern to some control systems engineers and is lumped in with “myriad commercial applications”.(pg 183) in the list of areas potentially affected.

One of the amendments being considered by the Rules Committee would take this issue one very small step forward. Rep. Turner (R, OH) has offered an amendment (#76) to HR 1540 that express the ‘Sense of Congress’ that “any commercial communications that interferes with the Global Positioning System (GPS) should not receive final authorization by the Federal Communications Commission until the potential interference with GPS is resolved”. A ‘Sense of Congress’ resolution has no legal effect on Federal agencies.

We’ll have to wait and see if this amendment (as effective as it is) makes it to the short list of amendments that the Rules Committee will allow to be considered during the floor debate. The Rule Committee hearing from yesterday evening is continuing this afternoon.

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