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Help Save Our GPS! Geocachers Rally to Stop Potential GPS Signal Interference

Using your GPS device in the United States to find the latest geocache could end with nothing but signal interference. That’s if the current proposal before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by the multi-billion dollar communications giant LightSquared™ is approved. According to press reports, LightSquared’s current proposal could render tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of GPS receivers obsolete starting as early as next year. But there is something you can do about it.

The LightSquared proposal involves offering an open wireless broadband network in radio frequency bands adjacent to those used by GPS receivers. LightSquared plans to use both satellites and land-based towers to provide this service.

A report delivered to the FCC in June shows significant interference to GPS receivers from LightSquared’s operations.

Groundspeak has joined a group of those willing to raise their voices in objection to this current plan. The group is called A Coalition to Save Our GPS.  We ask that you add your voice to the conversation. Tell the FCC that the current proposal by LightSquared could affect the family friendly activity of geocaching. Here’s why.

The LightSquared cell towers reportedly cast a signal significantly more powerful than the distant GPS satellites. GPS devices cannot filter out the stronger signal, resulting in interference. Tests reported to the FCC using a simulated LightSquared network reportedly jammed GPS devices used for aviation, surveying, agriculture, the U.S. Coast Guard and personal GPS navigation devices. Tests also confirmed that ambulance and police cars lost their  GPS reception within 600 – 1,000 feet of a LightSquared tower.

The FCC has asked for feedback from the public on the report. Comments will be taken until Saturday, July 30.  The “reply to comments” period then lasts until August 15. After the public comment period is closed, the FCC can announce a decision at any time. We’re asking that geocachers, and anyone who cares about GPS, rally to make the voices of GPS device users heard.

What can I do?

Everyone who cares about GPS should let the FCC know about the threat that LightSquared poses.  In writing to the FCC, we encourage you to cover the following points in your own words:

  • How you use GPS technology in your business and/or personal life
  • What would happen to your business/personal life if GPS became unavailable or unreliable
  • While more capacity for wireless broadband services is important, it should not come at the expense of GPS, which is critical to the global economy
  • The results of the testing that was performed at the FCC’s request show that GPS reception on certain devices could be affected by LightSquared’s proposed service.
  • Now that the test results have shown interference to GPS, the FCC shouldn’t allow LightSquared to keep trying out modified versions of its plan to use the spectrum near the GPS band.  LightSquared’s operations and GPS are fundamentally incompatible and the FCC should order LightSquared out of that band.

How do I tell the FCC to save GPS?

The FCC has an easy-to-use portal on its website to submit feedback on the testing results:

(1)  Click on this link for the FCC’s Electronic Comments Filing System (ECFS):  http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/begin?procName=&filedFrom=X

(2)  In the box which says “Proceeding Number,” type:  11-109. It is important to include this docket number with your comments.

(3)  In the designated boxes, enter (a) your name or your company’s name, and (b) your mailing address/city/state/zip.

(4)  In the box which says “Type in or paste your brief comments,” do so.  Click “Continue.”

(5)  A review page will load listing all of the information entered.  If correct, click “Confirm.” (6)  If you have trouble, contact the FCC ECFS Helpdesk at 202-418-0193 or e-mail at ecfshelp@fcc.gov.