July 28, 2020 / 8:10 PM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 1-Key US Senate Republican places hold on FCC nomination over Ligado

(Adds no O’Rielly comment, background, no immediate Ligado comment)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON July 28 (Reuters) - The Senate Armed Services Committee’s Republican chairman said on Tuesday he will block the renewal of the term of a Federal Communications Commission member over the independent agency’s decision to allow Ligado Networks to deploy a low-power nationwide mobile broadband network.

Senator Jim Inhofe said he was placing a hold on FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s nomination to serve a new term unless O’Rielly agrees to vote to overturn the Ligado Order, which is opposed by the Pentagon, other U.S. agencies and global positioning system users like major airlines.

The five-member FCC voted unanimously to approve the Ligado order in April.

“This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition,” Inhofe said. “All of America can’t be wrong, and he understands that.”

A spokesman for O’Rielly declined to comment.

In May, a group of U.S. agencies asked the FCC to reconsider its decision, saying it could pose a threat to GPS systems.

The Air Line Pilots Association, International Air Transport Association, Airlines for America, Iridium Communications and Lockheed Martin also urged reconsideration.

Previously, 32 U.S. senators said U.S. military operations could be harmed by the network proposed by Ligado, formerly known as LightSquared, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2015.

Ligado said “the Department of Defense, its contractors, and their special interest lobbyists have blanketed the Hill to spread misinformation and distort the exhaustive, engineering, and fact-driven process.”

The spectrum block Ligado wants to tap is in the L-Band, which is also home to spectrum used by GPS systems used by the military, businesses and consumers.

The Transportation Department this month urged the FCC to reconsider, saying the decision could cost federal users of the spectrum and private users of GPS both “tens of billions of dollars.” It added “GPS units in 80-100 million personal cars and light trucks likely to lose lock in urban areas.” (Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall)

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