Petition FCC to Reconsider 5G Network Approval
A number of aviation industry groups filed a petition May 22, 2020, requesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reconsider its April 20, 2020, approval of Ligado Networks’ (formerly LightSquared) nationwide 5G cellular service. It includes the company’s failure to sufficiently demonstrate its ability to act as a “good neighbor” and not interfere with other frequencies. The proposed high-speed broadband cellular network would be operating near frequency bands currently used by GPS and satellite communications networks.
The petition specifically noted the FCC’s acceptance of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) testing of the network’s effects on GPS signals despite the FAA’s own admission of flaws with its testing protocols. “ … the agency itself stated [the testing] was limited and incomplete for common operation scenarios near the ground” and “over dense urban areas, where interference would jeopardize life and property …”
Steve Brown, chief operating officer of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), one of the organizations which signed the petition, stated, “Given our national airspace system’s extensive use of GPS, including ADS-B-enabled air traffic control services and GPS-supported terrain warning systems, any question of even the slightest risk of interference should have been enough to pause this approval process,” he said. “We believe the FCC should promptly reconsider its order and the methods by which it was granted.”
Other organizations signing the petition include the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA); Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Airlines 4 America (A4A); Aviation Spectrum Resources, Inc. (ASRI); Cargo Airline Association (CAA); General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Helicopter Association International (HAI); International Air Transport Association (IATA) and National Air Transportation Association (NATA).
Garmin International, Inc. later announced that it had joined the aviation industry coalition in urging the FCC to “reconsider its Report and Order to repurpose C-band frequency spectrum nearby to the frequency band that is used by safety-critical FAA-certified radio altimeters, including Garmin’s GRA 5500 and GRA 55.” Stating that “radio altimeters are essential to safe airplane and helicopter operations, allowing pilots to safely land and avoid terrain, particularly during poor weather conditions and low visibility. The industry coalition is working to ensure radio altimeters are appropriately protected from prospective flexible-use applications, including 5G operations.” And specifying that the industry coalition doesn’t seek to block the repurposing of the C-Band spectrum, but a path that will make it available for purposes while ensuring the full protection of radio altimeters.
Response to CBP Fee Increases at User Fee Airports
The AOPA, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), NATA and the NBAA responded to the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) recent notification of significant fee increases (from 29% to 54%) at several U.S. airports, effective almost immediately, asking for the CBP to consider alternatives in addressing possible budget shortfalls.
The industry groups also sent letters to leaders of the subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Homeland Security urging Congress to include a provision in the fiscal year 2021 Department of Homeland Security appropriations act or the next COVID-19 supplemental funding bill that would permit CBP to augment the user fee airport fund with appropriations for customs expenses as necessary to maintain operations and prevent adverse impacts on airports.
The CBP’s User Fee program funds inspection services at approximately 60 airports, most supporting a significant number of general aviation operations.