Nearly a year ago, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) began asking recreational boaters, anglers and the marine industry to speak out about the potential loss of reliable GPS – the country’s sole electronic navigation system. A private venture, LightSquared, backed by billions of dollars in funding, had plans to build a nationwide 4G broadband cellular telephone network but unfortunately, tests had shown this plan would interfere with GPS signals creating grave safety concerns. The company recently announced that it has filed for bankruptcy after the build-out of the network was halted by the FCC.
“Boaters can appreciate having GPS first hand,” said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. “They know it will get them safely home, help them find the best fishing, meet friends for an afternoon raft-up, and greatly speed their rescue if the day goes bad. We thank the 18,000 boaters and other GPS users who wrote the FCC asking the guardian of the nation’s airwaves to ensure the future integrity of the GPS signal, and the FCC for listening and acting on our concerns.”
Even with the company’s May 14 Chapter 11 filing, LightSquared continues to be a challenging adversary, stating, “The voluntary Chapter 11 filing is intended to give LightSquared sufficient breathing room to continue working through the regulatory process that will allow us to build our 4G wireless network.” Under federal bankruptcy law, LightSquared would maintain exclusive control for several months over the right to craft a path to emerge from Chapter 11. The company originally asked the FCC for permission to build 40,000 network ground stations across the country. Recent government reports concluded interference issues with the GPS system could not be overcome.
BoatUS is a member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which worked to resolve this threat to the GPS system. After losing their only other viable navigation system (LORAN) in 2010 after the Department of Homeland Security shut the system down, boaters now solely rely on GPS for electronic navigation. The US Coast Guard’s emergency search and rescue system, Rescue 21, also now uses GPS to locate stricken vessels on over 41,746 miles of coastline, and mariners also rely on GPS-enabled communications with DSC VHF radios and emergency beacons to provide location information.