Farm Bureau has long advocated for the expansion of broadband in rural areas but the organization is concerned about a new service that could disrupt global positioning system (GPS) signals.
LightSquared, a broadband network provider, has been granted a waiver by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enable it to operate high-speed broadband over frequencies normally used by low-powered satellite-based systems such as GPS.
“Farm Bureau is extremely concerned with the FCC granting LightSquared a waiver enabling it to operate high-powered cellular base stations in frequencies normally used by low-powered satellite-based systems such as GPS systems,” American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said in comments to the FCC in March. “While the deployment of broadband services is important to the economic development and stability to rural America, the use of precision agriculture is also vital to America’s farmers and ranchers.”
AFBF noted that GPS allows farmers to collect accurate geographical data, which they will then use to apply site-specific treatments to increase agricultural production and protect the environment.
“It is the accuracy of the GPS that allows the farmer or rancher the ability to limit input costs, for example the cost and application of fertilizer, and run an efficient operation. Any disruption to the GPS has the potential to increase input costs of the operation and prevent the farmer or rancher from running an efficient, economical and environmentally friendly operation,” AFBF stated.
A report by a technical working group has since found that transmissions in LightSquared’s band of frequencies adversely affect a significant number of traditional GPS receivers.
The FCC plans to open a comment period regarding the technical working group’s report. AFBF and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) will continue to be engaged to communicate the importance of precision agriculture and the negative effects to the agriculture industry should the FCC grant final approval for LightSquared to proceed.
Rep. Steve Austria of Ohio and Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas have introduced a joint amendment to the financial services subcommittee appropriations bill that would restrict funding to the FCC until it resolves the concerns of possible widespread harmful interference to the GPS system.
State Rep. Bob Peterson, a former OFBF president, and the Ohio House Agriculture committee also have sent a letter to the FCC expressing concerns.