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Senator Uses FCC Nomination Process To Question National Wireless Network 101

Posted by timothy
from the good-a-place-as-any dept.
K7DAN contributes this excerpt from the intersection of politics, regulation, and high technology: "Sen. Charles Grassley is standing by his threat to place a hold on two nominees to the Federal Communications Commission over concerns about a controversial new wireless network the agency has allowed to move forward. The Iowa Republican this week accused the FCC of refusing to comply with his requests for information on its discussions with Virginia company LightSquared regarding its next-generation national wireless network. Some fear the network would hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS systems — used by the military, farmers and others. Grassley also raised questions about the involvement of Harbinger, the hedge fund behind the project and founded by Democratic donor Philip Falcone."
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Senator Uses FCC Nomination Process To Question National Wireless Network

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:13AM (#38264578)

    This seems like a reasonable inquiry. However, he's a replublican, and this is slashdot, so can someone enlighten me as to why it isn't? :)

    • If you get stung a lot by bees, pretty soon, you are going to suspect that bees sting.

      If you were trying to prove that Grassly was actually concerned about "government transparency" -- then please refer to the secret meetings for "indefinite detention" and tell me how transparent THAT is.

      Trying to prove that Grassly isn't doing this for the Military-grade GPS system or some other donor is a bit HIGHER BAR. Assuming the worst isn't unreasonable these days.

    • by durrr (1316311)
      He have a problem with Harbinger, a democratic vehicle.
      If Sovereign, the republican was behind it he wouldn't mind.

      In either case the benefits Reaped will not be a boon for anyone in the civilian population.
      • If Sovereign, the republican was behind it he wouldn't mind.

        He probably wouldn't mind because he's been indoctrinated.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He's from Iowa, where there are a lot of big corporate farms, a lot of big family farms, and not quite as many small family owned farms anymore.
      Most if not all of these farms use semi-autonomous systems to run the tractors that plow, seed, fertilize and harvest the crops. Without properly function high resolution gps, all of this falls by the wayside and back to fully manual operations they go, increasing costs at the farm level, which will ripple outward to the market.
      So in essence, he is protecting the A

    • This seems like a reasonable inquiry. However, he's a replublican, and this is slashdot, so can someone enlighten me as to why it isn't? :)

      My thoughts exactly. Usually the republicans would be supporting this but the rumor is that support from political parties (not mentioning any names here) might be highly dependent on donations.

  • Why do I get the feeling that there is some motivation (other than lost farming equipment) behind the resistance to the LightSquared network?

    • by jmac_the_man (1612215) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:23AM (#38264634)
      Because it says right in the summary that this could mess with GPS, and Grassley wants to make sure it doesn't because GPS is an important piece of military technology?
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:46AM (#38264810) Homepage Journal

        Because it says right in the summary that this could mess with GPS, and Grassley wants to make sure it doesn't because GPS is an important piece of military technology?

        You must not be very familiar with Senator Grassley, or you would not assume a motive unrelated to servicing his donors, specifically in this case big telecom.

        Anyway, my understanding is this Lightsquared thing uses unused parts of the spectrum and won't bother GPS. And if it does, it couldn't possibly get FCC approval.

        • What he said! ;)

          Assume the worst of Grassley and you are going to be correct MOST of the time.

        • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:5, Informative)

          by jmac_the_man (1612215) on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:35AM (#38265430)
          Hey, Rat. Long time no see.

          Big Time Obama Donors are trying to get approval from the Obama FCC for something that might conflict with GPS. The Big Time Obama Donors are accused of exerting inappropriate political pressure on the FCC. The Republican in charge of FCC oversight wants to hold a hearing to check and make sure that the thing doesn't conflict with GPS (and that the FCC wasn't inappropriately pressured.)

          Only a hack can read that and see "Republicans are evil." This is a pretty textbook example of the Legislative Branch acting as a check on the Executive Branch. This is EXACTLY how things are supposed to work.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            This is a pretty textbook example of the Legislative Branch acting as a check on the Executive Branch.

            Or, it can be seen as a corrupt Republican lawmaker killing an innovative small business at the behest of his big campaign donors.

            Which one makes more sense, that the system is actually working the way it's supposed to, or that someone who has been corrupt in the past being corrupt in the present?

            • First off, do you have evidence that Grassley is corrupt? Because your normal standard of proof is HURF DURF HE HAS AN R NEXT TO HIS NAME SO OF COURSE HE'S CORRUPT.

              There are people who are saying that the LightSquared is corrupt, and they are looking for help from the Obama administration, which is obviously not above corruption itself. Grassley, as the guy whose job it is to look into corruption in this part of the Obama administration, wants to look into it.

              GPS has a more legitimate claim to the spect

            • Which one makes more sense, that the system is actually working the way it's supposed to, or that someone who has been corrupt in the past being corrupt in the present?

              Depends on who you're talking about. But it's not just Grassley that's raising questions, he's just the one that decided to make the most political hay out of exposing yet another instance of the Obama administration handing out favors to their supporters. Those involved with LightSquared include:

              1. Obama’s good friend and political donor Donald Gips, his former White House personnel chief, who now serves as U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Records show that Gips maintained an interest, worth as much
              • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

                Believe it or not, sometimes congressmen really do respond to their constituents [saveourgps.org].

                I don't believe that this is a case of a congressman responding to his constituents. He's responding to his campaign donors.

                The constituents can think whatever they want.

              • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

                What's wrong with asking for transparency?

                Selectively, I assume.

                Why not transparency for all corporate donations? Are you prepared to declare your opposition to the Citizens United decision, and not to vote for any candidate who does not come out against it?

                Will you support a constitutional amendment saying that corporations are not people and money is not speech? If not, then you're calls for transparency are little more than another way for you to hate the black guy in the white house.

                Obama himself was

                • Why not transparency for all corporate donations?

                  You mean like this? [opensecrets.org]

                  Are you prepared to declare your opposition to the Citizens United decision, and not to vote for any candidate who does not come out against it?

                  Hell no, it was a good decision. I don't like "personhood" for corporations, and they are given far too much deference even without all the favoritism by select politicians, etc. But the Citizens United case was decided the right way, for free speech. Now you can make a movie and release it close to an election, too, and that's how it should be in a free society.

                  Will you support a constitutional amendment saying that corporations are not people

                  Something like that, sure.

                  ... and money is not speech?

                  Money buys media and exposure. Don't we have enough economic tyranny out of Washington already?

        • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:5, Informative)

          by msauve (701917) on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:36AM (#38266250)
          "my understanding is this Lightsquared thing uses unused parts of the spectrum and won't bother GPS. "

          Then your understanding would be wrong. Lightsquared wants to set up an LTE network, with nationwide coverage. They would use terrestrial stations transmitting on frequencies immediately adjacent to GPS frequencies. The terrestrial stations would cover areas of dense population, and rural areas would be covered by satellite.

          These frequencies were formerly allotted solely to satellite use. Lightsquared got someone at the FCC to do a fast track (public comment period of only 7 business days after announcement, and across Thanksgiving holiday 2010) approval for also using these frequencies terrestrially.

          The problem is, terrestrial signals are MUCH closer/stronger than satellite ones, and many/most GPS receivers were designed based on adjacent signals having a satellite-level strength, and therefore are subject to interference from Lightsquared's terrestrial signals.

          This isn't so much a political thing (except perhaps how Lightsquared's approval got fast tracked), but a technical one.

          Here's something [freegeographytools.com] describing the situation as GPS users see it, and another [gpsworld.com], which describes the fast tracking which was done:

          The FCC turned up its nose at assertions by some that the entire process was conducted in near-stealth mode as well as on an admitted fast-track, filed during a period coinciding with Thanksgiving and winter holidays so that it would pass with little notice. "We conclude that the pleading cycle for LightSquared's request - in which the Comment Public Notice was issued on November 19, 2010, with comments due on December 2, 2010, and reply comments due on December 9, 2010 - is sufficient for the decisions we make herein."

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            Thank you for the clarification. I don't doubt there are technical issues, but Senator Grassley's problem with the nomination of the new FCC chairman has nothing to do with that.

            His interest has never been in public good, but in the good of his corporate sponsors. He's one of the few in Congress for whom I assume not one good intention. And there are those from both parties on that list.

            • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by msauve (701917) on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:18PM (#38266880)
              "Senator Grassley's problem with the nomination of the new FCC chairman has nothing to do with that."

              Unless he's concerned that the FCC is making decisions based on political pressures, and not unbiased technical data and public input.

              Many people aren't aware of the criticality of the GPS system. In addition to the well known consumer navigation products, GPS is a critical part of a lot of other businesses. It's used for syncronizing timing across cell phone towers (and lots of other timing uses), the FAA is working on making GPS a more useful/critical component of aviation, modern surveying depends on GPS accuracy, etc. Specific to a Senator from Iowa, farmers use GPS to auto-navigate their implements to plant and harvest crops. And, of course, there's the military use, which is why it was created in the first place.

              Lightsquared got an allocation for satellite frequencies, then a fast track allowance for using them terrestrially, in essence getting very cheap spectrum compared to LTE competitors who paid for spectrum which was always intended for terrestrial use.

              Now, they're disingenuously claiming that the fault is in the GPS receivers. Radio devices are designed with filters to block adjacent channel interference. But, there is no perfect filter, and costs increase exponentially as you try to get closer to a sharp "brick wall" cutoff. GPS devices were designed with the understanding that adjacent frequencies were for satellite use (which they were at the time), so they were designed with filters to deal with those signal levels. That's not unreasonable. Lightsquared's terrestrial signals can be expected to be +60 dbm stronger (1,000,000 times the power) than a satellite signal.

              Note that complaints about this allowance for Lightsquared are widespread [wikipedia.org], and not limited to Republicans.
            • by PickyH3D (680158)

              Good to know that you can see the forest for the trees.

              The number of politicians that should be on that list should exceed the number that are not on it, from both sides. That does not mean that people in positions of power that are generally up-to-no-good are incapable of doing something that you agree with.

              It may just mean that their--or their bribers (in the case of the corrupt), or their constituents--interests happen to align with your own this time. Do you always agree with your favorite politician? I

              • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

                Everything about this deal with the FCC and LightSquared sounds corrupt, so I am more than happy to have anyone looking into it.

                Everything about our economic system is corrupt. Corporations' ability to make unlimited anonymous political donations is corrupt.

                We're going to see this stuff constantly until we completely take corporate money out of our political system, via a constitutional amendment. In this, I agree with the Occupy Movement completely.

          • Here [stanford.edu] is a recent presentation from the FAA regarding the interference issues, which includes these findings:

            Simulation results showed that completion of the Network of highpowered base stations envisioned by LightSquared would result in degradation or loss of GPS function (ranging, position) at standoff distances of a few kilometers extending to space operations
            ...
            Certain applications, even with modification or complete redesign, would still not be able to perform their current mission in the presence of su

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by WilCompute (1155437)

              One problem is that GPS bleeds into the spectrum that LightSqured is supposed to use, due to poor design decisions. The GPS satellites would need to be fixed to prevent usage outside of the range they were supposed to operate in. LightSqured's solution to this is to use half of the bandwidth they were allotted, in order to not interfere with the GPS satellites. They even offered to pay to fix the satellites themselves, in order to solve the problem.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by thrich81 (1357561)
            The one thing you left out of your informative post is that Lightsquared bought the radio spectrum it intends to use for cheap because it was restricted to satellite use. If they can convert that to terrestrial use they make a cool 500% profit ($2 billion vs $12 billion according to this link http://www.generalaviationnews.com/2011/10/27/coalition-debunks-claims-by-lightsquared-on-gps-issue/ [generalaviationnews.com]) on the radio spectrum. Those of us in the casual GPS user community have watched this unfold in disbelief that the
        • by Hartree (191324)

          "And if it does, it couldn't possibly get FCC approval."

          That doesn't follow. The FCC has a history of being pressed into decisions going back to the obsoleting of the old (pre-WW2) FM band. That one also obsoleted a lot of old gear.

          https://umdrive.memphis.edu/mbensman/public/stat40.html [memphis.edu]

          That was also done at the behest of corporate interests.

          I know you don't like Grassley, but his presence on this issue is largely beside the point. You need to check out the technical background on this one, Ratzo.

          There are r

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            I know you don't like Grassley, but his presence on this issue is largely beside the point. You need to check out the technical background on this one, Ratzo.

            There are real technical questions about Lightsquared's proposal.

            I've looked into it and it looks like you're right, although I'm not prepared to accept that an LTE network is really going to bring down GPS. It's a technical problem, not a political one.

            I don't mind the idea of a national wireless network, but would prefer it to be a publicly-funded 3

    • by tgd (2822)

      Hey, don't disregard the risk of losing farm equipment. Tractors are really small, and the corn can easily be as high as an elephant's eye!

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by vlm (69642)

      Why do I get the feeling that there is some motivation (other than lost farming equipment) behind the resistance to the LightSquared network?

      I checked out Grassley on opensecrets.org

      http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=2012&cid=n00001758&type=I&newmem=N [opensecrets.org]

      and he doesn't appear to get much money from telcos. He seems primarily a slave of the medical industrial complex. It could be he's doing a favor for a slave owned by the telcos, in exchange the telco-owned-slave will promote some medical industrial complex ripoff for his owner's interests..

      But at least directly, he's not getting involved in something related t

    • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gavron (1300111) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:30AM (#38264684)

      LighSquared technology IS IN VIOLATION OF CURRENT FCC RULES and requires an exemption.
      LightSquared will mess with GPS for airplanes. (I'm a pilot).
      LightSquared will mess with GPS for drivers. (I'm a driver)
      LightSquared will remove GPS as being a useful technology in North America. (I'm in North America).

      It will put North American users in the dark ages.

      That alone is reason enough they should not be given said exemption.

      It's only being debated because they have powerful backers.

      Blow them all the hell up and improve our country.

      E

      • by vlm (69642)

        I am unclear on how badly it'll mess up GPSDOs and GPS clocks, which indirectly is a big problem both for the general public and also some of my obscure hobbies. My at work onnet NTP "stratum 1s" are all GPS clocks, which worries me, and at home I'm on the fence about converting my ham radio microwave transverters to GPSDOs. If the GPSDO is going to be unusable "soon" then why bother dropping a couple hundred bucks, may as well buy like 20 Rb clocks and toss them as they burn out. Supposedly Rb clocks st

      • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:5, Informative)

        by SDrag0n (532175) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:48AM (#38264828)
        Maybe if GPS manufacturers hadn't disregarded the DOD requirements on GPS, the technology wouldn't mess with your GPS http://m.lightsquared.com/press-room/press-releases/gps-industrys-failure-to-comply-with-department-of-defense/ [lightsquared.com]

        Imagine I bought a timeshare for 2 weeks a year and noticed that nobody was using the week after mine and I started planning 3 weeks stays. A few years down the road, somebody else shows up and wants to stay during that third week. What right would I have to be pissed?

        Personally, I'm more concerned to find out that it's apparently really easy to knock out military GPS.... It seems like somebody would want to fix that rather than complain about spectrum usage. Just my 2 cents.
        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          Imagine I bought a timeshare for 2 weeks a year and noticed that nobody was using the week after mine and I started planning 3 weeks stays. A few years down the road, somebody else shows up and wants to stay during that third week. What right would I have to be pissed?

          Except it's more like you bought a timeshare for 2 weeks and have stayed for 15 years.
          Personally, I'd call this a combination of "fait accompli" and "adverse possesion"

          They can complain about how unfair it all is, but it's been going on for so long,
          with no complaint, that there really isn't much to be done about the situation.
          The public backlash would be enormous if everyone's GPS devices all stopped working at once.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Imagine I bought a timeshare for 2 weeks a year and noticed that nobody was using the week after mine and I started planning 3 weeks stays. A few years down the road, somebody else shows up and wants to stay during that third week. What right would I have to be pissed?

          It's more like you bought a timeshare for two weeks, and a few years down the road, you learn that someone has bought the condo next to yours and is using it to store manure, complete with smell, seepage, and pest infestation. Yes, you're getting the two weeks that you paid for, but you won't be able to use them for your desired purpose.

        • by VeriTea (795384)
          Mod this comment up, it is spot-on.

          If you follow the wireless industry for a while you see this is a repeat pattern: "Hmm, no one is using the spectrum near what my device will use so I can save a few cents by leaving out the receive filter!"

          Garmin has been caught with their pants down and has been desperately trying to spin this as being LightSquared's fault.

        • by PickyH3D (680158)

          The DOD has much different requirements than the civilian GPS industry. In fact, as you probably know, the DOD has an entirely different service that provides a much more accurate level of detail called the Precise Positioning Service, whereas civilians have access to the explicitly degraded Standard Positioning Service (SPS). It's hard to say explicitly what LightSquared is talking about because they made no attempt to reference it beyond naming a standard that does not make any such explicit statements t

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        They're doing some crazy testing to make sure that it won't interfere. They're not going to deploy a technology that could take down the entire US without making damn sure it won't. Besides, Garmin's guys are the ones saying it'll mess everything up- testing sponsored by LightSquared shows that is has a small effect, if any. I don't think they'd bias the tests- most of those labs, if not all, are good labs.

        • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by gavron (1300111) on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:12AM (#38265120)

          LOL. No, the testing was done by lots of people. I'd post a link but I don't want to insult your intelligence by making it a google search. (Yes, there are LOTS of research results.)

          LightSquared interferes with most commercially viable GPS receivers.

          Could GPS manufacturers have made their products less sensitive (e.g. "WORSE") and be more immune to being totally decimated by this? Sure. The big win is that GPS manufacturers worked to get us good tech. LightSquared has nothing new to offer, but would eliminate GPS in the process.

          Sorry, as much as I'm a fan of new technology, GPS trumps Yet Another Wireless Provider Panacea.

          Cheers,

          E

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by advocate_one (662832)

            LightSquared interferes with most commercially viable GPS receivers.

            By commercially viable you really mean cheapskates who failed to implement the recommended guidelines because it would have increased the component count and cost and are now screaming foul because their own devices cannot block out the adjacent band transmission because they failed to implement the proper rejection into their devices...

            • Does it matter at this point? Millions of those GPS receivers are out there. Yes they did it wrong, but that's in the past already. Anyone who did it wrong and especially anyone still doing it wrong needs a good smack, but consumers who bought that hardware had absolutely no way to know and it's a hard thing to argue that we should be in favor of significantly impacting their functionality.

            • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:5, Informative)

              by bwalzer (708512) <slashdot AT 59 DOT ca> on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:47AM (#38266444)
              Er, no. There is an actual technical issue here. If you make a passive filter with sharper skirts you end up with more loss to the desired signal. GPS (like all things that transmit from space) is quite power limited. As a result the signal is just above the noise (pretty much all downlinks). So just adding a better filter in front of the receiver will significantly degrade things.

              There is stuff that you can do here but it would be expensive and possibly power hungry (some GPS receivers have to run off of batteries).

              Normally this issue is resolved by placing guard bands around downlink bands where terrestrial transmitters are not allowed. By not doing this in a reasonable way, the FCC has simply messed up.

              • by davros74 (194914) on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:16PM (#38266842) Homepage

                Wish I mod points. This is the crux of the entire problem. These satellite downlink frequencies were originally setup by the FCC for only that use. Now that the FCC messed up and allowed this to proceed we have a completely different ballgame - satellite downlink frequencies being transmitted at terrestrial locations and high power levels, but the existing receiving equipment (some 10-15 years old), is supposed to continue to work in an environment like this?

                Existing receivers do not expect that kind of high power/close neighbor interfence because A> to have to filter it would reduce the received signal and sensitivity anyway (lower performance), B> any such filtering would be more expensive (power and cost), C> no filtering is required since the FCC already made sure no one would be swamping the signal by effectively keeping this area of spectrum "quiet" (or at least the received signals are all at similar power levels with sufficient guard bands).

                There are other frequencies and better receivers, but these are not your cheapo handheld battery powered GPS receivers. So while technical solutions might be found going forward, the real problem is that most of the commercial GPS equipment will basically stop working - so who should pay to replace everyone's GPS (from handheld's, to in car units, iPhone's, etc)??

            • Is it possible that Garmin and others will benefit from their older devices not working well in the near future as we will have to upgrade? And they can lay the blame with someone else. Maybe they're not as unhappy about this as they would have us believe. I seem to recall hearing that the GPS system we use now is being depricated. Sats are failing, and the military is not replacing them, but they have a new better system on the way.
              • by Agripa (139780)

                A new *augmented* system is on the way but it only adds to the existing system in a backwards compatible way. Current devices will still work with it just fine and naturally the time scale for deployment is years to decades.

                Garmin and the other manufacturers may see a sales boost from replacing old GPS units that will not work with LightSquare's interference but the total economic damage will be greater. Digging holes so you can fill them in is great for employment but bad as productive work.

          • If you had shared those links, insulting everyone's intelligence, actually you would've been moderated +5 Informative. ;)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm a {bunch of stuff that doesn't include engineer or something indicating you know anything about the technical issues involved}.

        And no one cares. You say with all of the certainty in the world that LightSquared will mess with this and that, but offer absolutely not supporting proof. I haven't seen any actual evidence of what you're saying, only bickering between LightSquared and the GPS camps. No real testing or data from some sort of 3rd party. Yes, LightSquared requires an exemption, but, from http://e

      • by uufnord (999299)

        Here are a few things that will make you seem like a sane human being instead of a loud-mouth idiot. First, TYPING IN CAPS IS OFTEN CONSIDERED YELLING, and when you type IN CAPS something as inconsistent as what you typed, then you seem, well, idiotic. If they were granted an exemption by the FCC (or a conditional waiver, whatever the case may be), then they're not in violation of current FCC rules. They can't be both at once, and the FCC granted their conditional waiver in January. They would be in vio

        • I'm sad to see that this comment sits in the wasteland at a score of 1. It should be modded up as informative.

          I'm going to repeat the single piece of info in your post that should have the most attention, IMO:

          The article summary calls Falcone a "Democratic donor" but neglects to mention that he gives more to Republicans than Democrats.

          Someone please mod parent up.
      • I'd gladly give up GPS (not that we'd have to) for actual broadband competition in this country.

        The cable/telecom monopolies in this country are among the most corrupt and egregious offenders.

        • by gavron (1300111)

          I'd gladly give you up and the other traitors who don't care that we have laws about frequency spectra, transmission, and being able to FIND WHERE YOU ARE, SEARCH AND RESCUE, GET PLANES ON RUNWAYS (I'm a helicopter pilot), AND FIND THINGS,

          for actual nothing. We already have these.

          You want broadband competition? That's a good goal too. It's possible to get that without sacrificing the above.

          Just like TSA doesn't equal heightened security, only heightened hassle, giving up the GPS frequencies doesn't equal

          • by Anonymous Coward

            'Traitors?' Good grief, boy, shove the hyperbole out the window! Yes, we need to keep control over the spectrum, but 'traitors?' really?

            No, don't bother trying to explain it. It's stupid. You should be ashamed of yourself. Save your calls of 'traitors' for people who are betraying their country to enemy powers or inciting rebellion, not people who don't share your views of spectrum priority, no matter how important GPS is and how LightSquared should go for some other band.

            Seriously, what the hell, did R

    • Re:Other Motivation? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:35AM (#38265432)
      It's not "lost" farming equipment. Farmers and industrial equipment use this tech to do things like level a field to within a 1/4" I watched a large D8 bulldozer that had a blade guided by one of these systems put a grade on a plot that was exactly 1" lower at one end than the other. This was important for the crop being planted there because they wanted very slow runoff without any pooling etc... It was amazing to watch really. If farmers lost systems like this it would have an impact, not only on their yields, but also on the amount of water, fertilizer, seed, even gasoline they'd use. It'd be bad for us all.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by cdrguru (88047)

        Simple answer to the employment crisis as well as what to do with all those people streaming over the border from Mexico and points south: more hand labor, less mechanized farming.

        Get more people out in the fields and we will all be better off. It was good enough 2000 years ago, it should be good enough today.

        • by msauve (701917)
          "It was good enough 2000 years ago, it should be good enough today."

          So, no GPS or Lightsquared LTE, is that your point?
  • by GeneralTurgidson (2464452) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:24AM (#38264644)
    Sounds like commie trickery to me too, senator.
  • Process (Score:5, Interesting)

    by necro81 (917438) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:26AM (#38264664) Journal
    One thing that so many don't realize about the U.S. Congress, and particularly the Senate, is that so much of the bullshit that goes on has nothing to do with their constitutional duties to craft, debate, and revise legislation, but rather to the skirting and enforcing of procedural rules. I'm not talking about overly-civilized stuff like Robert's Rules of Order that keep everyone from shouting at the same time. These are rules that, for instance, allow a single disgruntled Senator to completely uphold the nomination process - such as this case. Sometimes the Senator has demands for such and such information (which may be valid), but usually it is just a veil for quid pro quo. Most egregious of these procedures is the anonymous hold [wikipedia.org], which allows otherwise qualified candidates to have their nomination in limbo, indefinitely, at the whim of some Senator so craven they won't even dignify their objection in public. The Senate is authorized to advise and consent on executive nominations, not to hide in the corner and pout like children.
    • Re:Process (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:34AM (#38264716)
      I would not mind the anonymous holds if they had a one-time, limited length (let's say someone is nominated and a Senator has heard a rumor about something inappropriate in that nominee's background that would be fairly significant for the post, but is somewhat farfetched. The Senator wants a little time--say 30 days--to find out if there is anything to the allegation before going on record opposing the nominee).
    • Re:Process (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:38AM (#38264746)

      Gee - I do realize it - it is the way the system works, and the system is in place so that a single senator CAN make a difference, as opposed to the House rules which are set up on a majority basis. It comes from the intended different roles of the two bodies. The House is for the people, the Senate represents the states. The senate is structured so that small states can have equal power to big states. Rhode Island has a much power in the Senate as California does.

      Get off your high horse and learn why the two bodies behave differently!

      In this case, the Senator is operating within his constitutional discretion and demanding a Federal agency answer his "right and proper" exercise of authority over the body. They refuse to answer his questions, and he pulls one of the few strings he can as an individual senator to get the agency to respond.

      Federal agency DO commit coverups - See the recent release of "Fast and Furious" information last Friday where Justice actually admitted that they lied to Congress.

      Representative government is a messy business. When the "checks and balances" are operating - someone's head might get whacked!

      • Your concept that the Senate and House have different rules because they have different purposes is partially correct.

        However, the statement

        The House is for the people, the Senate represents the states.

        is false.

        The House and the Senate are both intended to represent both people and states (keep in mind that states are proxies for the people in those states) . The reason they apportion their membership differently is because there was a compromise between the populous states and the smaller states when t

  • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:08AM (#38265054)

    ... is when the goals of the sponsors coincide.

    In this case, LightSquared might be taking bandwidth away from Ad Hoc wireless networks -- of course Grassley is concerned about his military backers and their precession GPS -- likely because Drones given to police stations are going to need to accurately pinpoint hippies in a crowd to drop payloads of Pepper Gas on.

    >> Either way; I'd much prefer that a bunch of people started using WiMax and creating a self-organizing Internet of our own. Come on SlashDot - we are just the geeky anarchists to get it done!

  • The issue at hand (Score:5, Informative)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @10:24AM (#38265292)

    The issue at hand [wikipedia.org] is that Lightsquared plans to place strong, satellite-based signals very close in frequency to that of the GPS system -- specifically, signals at 1526-1536 MHz (initially; although Lightsquared has rights to 1525-1559 MHz) that will be 60 dB stronger on the Earth's surface than the GPS L1 signals [wikipedia.org] at 1575.42 MHz.

    Since GPS signals are so weak (-130 to -150 dBm at the receive antenna terminals), most GPS receivers have minimal RF filtering, to avoid the insertion loss of the filters and thereby optimize GPS receiver sensitivity. Recognizing that GPS receivers do not have sharp selectivity, for decades it has been national policy (as well as good engineering practice) not to place strong signals near the GPS frequencies. This change in policy is the issue at hand.

    Technically, the problem with the Lightsquared proposal is, even if the Lightsquared guys put lots of filtering on their transmitter, so that it is spectrally clean and has substantially no energy at the GPS frequency itself, the millions of existing GPS receivers already in the field will be unable to receive the desired L1 signal in the presence of the strong undesired Lightsquared signal, due to their limited filtering and dynamic range -- and, short of replacing every GPS receiver in the country, there's nothing Lightsquared can do about that.

    Why Lightsquared thinks this scheme will work, and they won't be vilified in the press once GPS problems crop up, is something for the psychologists and sociologists to ponder.

    • by jdgeorge (18767)

      Why Lightsquared thinks this scheme will work, and they won't be vilified in the press once GPS problems crop up, is something for the psychologists and sociologists to ponder.

      Perhaps the bankers and economists would understand their motivation better than the psychologists and sociologists, then.

      • by dtmos (447842) *

        Perhaps the bankers and economists would understand their motivation better than the psychologists and sociologists, then.

        . . . but nobody will make any money if they spend $billions to put the satellites in orbit, and the network is a flop; one needs reliable revenue over many years to repay the cost invested in a satellite system (just ask the Iridium guys at Motorola).

    • Re:The issue at hand (Score:5, Informative)

      by queazocotal (915608) on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:27AM (#38266100)

      http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/awx/2011/06/09/awx_06_09_2011_p0-334122.xmlheadline=LightSquared%20Tests%20Confirm%20GPS%20Jamming&channel=busav [aviationweek.com]
      "Simulations conducted by aviation standards developer RTCA for the FAA concluded 'GPS is likely to be unavailable over the who
      le US East Coast' based on LightSquared's deployment plans, Robert Frazier, of the FAAs spectrum planning and international office, told the meeting."

      This is a fairly reasonable question to raise.

      To put the above numbers in context,
      Each GPS satellite transmits less power than one of the ground-stations.
      And it has to cover a whole hemisphere of the earth.
      There don't really exist filters good enough to overcome that disparity.

      • by Agripa (139780)

        There don't really exist filters good enough to overcome that disparity.

        To just to expand on this, the necessary filters do exist but will not fit inside of a handheld form factor without an unacceptable loss in sensitivity or out of band rejection. Duplexers used in cell phones for example are at least 5 times too wide. There are good technical reasons to separate satellite down-link bands from local terrestrial broadcast bands. Someone at the FCC was smoking crack, unqualified, or bought and payed for

  • by tchall (1146319)
    Living in an area where people die withing a few miles of a road every year the idea that GPS systems might be affected is enough to make me want to know a LOT more before something like this is put out in the field...

    The "Power Line Carrier" stuff was only good for wiping all LF, and HF communications for miles... using the power lines as HUGE antennas for those bands...

    The FCC has had a poor track record on unintended consequences in naming secondary users, or allowing commercial exploitation of fr

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