GPS has become synonymous with freedom of mobility. But that freedom is under fire, thanks to the US Federal Communications Commission.
Like other government agencies, the FCC's raison d'être is to serve the public good, and if GPS isn't "good", what is? The public uses the system more times a day than most probably realise. Yet the FCC in January allowed a company called LightSquared to later this year begin deploying a new 4G broadband network that experts far and wide say will make GPS unusable.
The accelerated approval came with a caveat but without the normal public review process. The caveat? A hastily assembled government/industry working group was given just four months, until June, to discern the magnitude of the potential impact. In the group's first interim report to the FCC, it discusses who should be involved in a technical group that will conduct tests and analysis.
The suggestions illustrate the true ubiquity of GPS, used not just in aviation, but in public safety, electric power and utilities, engineering and construction, environmental protection, law enforcement, maritime and waterways, agriculture, surveying, mapping, weather, space, precision timing, consumer devices, cellular handsets... the list goes on.
Given how little technical work can be done in the three months remaining, pressure is mounting on the FCC to do the right thing - reverse its approval.