8/05/2011

Some real economic damage caused by Obama's FCC

This may be a story about how the Obama "Stimulus" program will do many tens of billions of dollars of damage. From the Economist:

The “NextGen” air-traffic control system, which uses GPS satellites to pin-point every plane’s precise position in the sky once a second, plus onboard radios that let each aircraft continually see (and be seen by) all others nearby, is to be rolled out in 2012 and fully implemented by 2022. . . .
. . . due to regulatory haste and shortsightedness, GPS coverage of America could soon go dark in places and become patchy elsewhere. Not only airlines would suffer. There are over 500m GPS receivers in use throughout the United States. Motorists, mobile-phone users, boat-owners, television broadcasters, the police, the armed forces, the emergency services and even farmers would be adversely affected. . . .
The ultimate source of the trouble is a decision made in 2003 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant special dispensation to a broadband satellite operator called SkyTerra, allowing it to fill gaps in its coverage by means of ground-based transmitters. SkyTerra’s chunk of spectrum (1,525-1,559 megahertz) abutted a crucial frequency (1,575 megahertz) used by GPS satellites. However, SkyTerra’s signals being mere whispers from space and its few proposed ground stations designed to operate at low power, any threat to GPS was dismissed as highly unlikely.
Everything changed when Harbinger Capital Partners, a New York-based investment firm founded by subprime-mortgage billionaire Philip Falcone, bought SkyTerra in 2010 and renamed it LightSquared. . . .
Mr Falcone quickly persuaded the FCC to rewrite the former SkyTerra licence. Instead of being conditional on offering an internet service primarily by satellite, with ground stations filling in only where satellite coverage was inadequate, the revised licence accepts that the network will rely almost exclusively on terrestrial transmitters.
And not just low-powered ones for serving inner cities. . . .
How this came about is a sorry tale of greed, haste and incompetence. Though politically savvy, the FCC is not noted for having the sharpest technical knives in the drawer. According to Aviation International News, last year it accidentally sold the total block of frequencies reserved for the B-2 stealth bomber. In the case of LightSquared, the FCC has no excuse for allowing a national network of high-powered transmitters to operate so close to GPS’s frequency. . . .
But in the rush to reallocate underused parts of the spectrum—to fulfill the White House’s promise to deliver high-speed internet connections to everyone in the country—the FCC has been guilty of riding rough-shod over objectors. . . .

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2 Comments:

Blogger Zendo Deb said...

The FCC running over objectors in favor of industry isn't new.

The old Broadband over Power Line technology - that was to deliver internet everywhere (except for the small problem that it is too expensive) - interfered with both HAM radio frequencies and some fire/police bands.

FCC ignored their own technical reports to do what the BUSH administration wanted. Support their friends in industry.

8/06/2011 10:58 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Zendo:
I think that this was a bit of a figment of people's imagination. If you go to this website, you will see that in June 2011 there were a record number Ham radio operators in the US. http://www.dxzone.com/cgi-bin/dir/jump2.cgi?ID=13872
So the costs from this technology don't seem to have been too high. The predictions were that Ham radio operators would disappear. I also don't seem to find a bad effect on either the number of AM stations or the price of those stations. On the other hand, being able to provide cable over power lines introduces a lot of new competition and allows cable TV in places that would not previously have gotten it. Low cost/High gain. What is so bad about that?

8/06/2011 8:46 PM  

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