Precision agriculture threatened by GPS interference

NAWG and a dozen other major agricultural groups wrote the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week urging continued testing of new broadband technology to ensure it does not interfere with existing GPS systems used by farmers.
The FCC is considering a waiver requested by LightSquared, a company with technology that could dramatically expand rural broadband access, but that studies show could emit signal interference effectively disabling GPS systems.
Ag groups writing this week said additional testing of the system and proposed fixes is “imperative” because they and their members need to know for certain that LightSquared’s technology will work for new and existing precision agriculture tools.
The groups called for testing of proposed fixes in the field as well as in a laboratory environment, and said the investigations must look at a full range of scenarios to ensure GPS signals aren’t degraded. The groups also said that costs associated with retrofitting or replacing GPS devices made unusable by LightSquared’s technology should be borne by the company.
The letter reiterated signatories’ support for LightSquared’s goal of increasing broadband access, especially in rural areas. But, they said, this goal must not be achieved at the cost of disabling GPS devices that offer agricultural producers critical safety and environmental benefits, saving billions of dollars in the process.
“At the end of the appropriate testing process, it is our hope that the results are favorable, making it possible to realize a longstanding agricultural industry goal of expanded rural broadband,” they wrote. “That said, this laudable goal must not be accomplished at the expense of precision agriculture.”
Groups signing on to the letter represent growers of corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, cotton, rice, barley, potatoes, sunflowers and dry beans and lentils, which collectively account for the vast majority of commodity production in the U.S.
NAWG and coalition partners have been engaged on this issue for a number of months and continue to work with the Obama administration and members of Congress to protect agricultural GPS applications as the LightSquared proposal is reviewed.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing on the issue last month. NAWG staff participated in a follow-up briefing with congressional staff on Thursday.
The full letter sent this week is available at


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