It’s hard to be against anyone or anything that’s working to bring broadband access to the last acre of rural America. Like other business people, farmers have been wanting the same high-speed access others enjoy almost since Al Gore founded the Internet.
LightSquared is a broadband network provider. In January, the Federal Communications Commission gave the company a waiver which will allow it to operate high-speed broadband over frequencies normally used by low-powered satellite-based systems, such as Global Positioning Systems.
The American Farm Bureau is concerned that construction of high-powered cellular base stations could interfere with the frequency used by GPS and wants the FCC to conduct a scientific evaluation of the LightSquared plan before giving it approval. As a condition of receiving the waiver, LightSquared said it would work to prevent interference with GPS.
Farmers use GPS for a lot of functions: for precision agriculture; applying fertilizer and chemicals; and for mapping field boundaries, roads, irrigation systems and problem areas in crops, such as weeds or disease. GPS let them go to specific locations in a field, year after year, for jobs like collecting soil samples. It lets them work when visibility is low, when there’s rain, dust, fog or they’ve run out of daylight.
Nebraska U.S. Sens. Ben Nelson and Pat Roberts of Kansas are also asking FCC to reconsider, citing “substantial concerns that LightSquared’s proposal places an unacceptable risk to public safety through interference with GPS receivers necessary for aviation, first responders, maritime navigation, E-911, and national defense systems.”
High-speed broadband services are important to rural America — but not at the expense of losing GPS.