If you read the article we posted on December 7 on the Farm Equipment web site entitled, "Rural Officials Urge John Deere to Drop Campaign Against LightSquared," I'd like to know what you think about it. But first, if you don't mind, I'm going to tell you what I think.
If you're not familiar with the LightSquared situation, here it is in a nutshell. The company has proposed offering high-speed mobile Internet service to as many as 260 million people using 40,000 base stations. The service would operate on airwaves formerly reserved mainly for satellites, and near the spectrum used by GPS devices.
The controversy lies in the fact that LightSquared's system would interfere with nearly all GPS devices, ranging from those you use in your car to satellite signals used by military and commercial aircraft. For agriculture, it's been demonstrated time and again that the LightSquared system would render useless most precision farming devices and systems.
In the post referred to at the beginning of this column, apparently some state officials and farmers wrote a letter to John Deere asking (demanding?) that Deere drop its opposition to the LightSquared proposed broadband Internet system. To quote the letter, "Your attacks on LightSquared could prevent our families from reaping the benefits of this new network."
The letter went on to say, "Rural Americans deserve the ability to purchase both GPS and wireless broadband devices. Our families need both technologies for an equal shot at the American dream. As your customers, we ask that you take responsibility for repairing your equipment rather than trying to stop an innovative wireless company from making life better for the American people."
First of all, I fully recognize the value of the Internet and the other emerging technologies that enhance communications and information transfer. I also believe that it would be great if all rural communities had access to these technologies. But "GPS and wireless broadband devices" have never been part of my "American Dream."
Whoever penned that sappy plea made a poor attempt to appeal to the emotions of anyone who reads the letter. It's more than a little obvious that this is orchestrated hype aimed at letting LightSquared get its way. If anyone is going to benefit, it's LightSquared, which stands to reap billions of dollars to the detriment of many others.
Secondly, Deere isn't the only one opposing LightSquared's system. Consider that the Dept. of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, FedEx, UPS, NASA, the airlines and a host of others have expressed serious concerns about the proposed network.
Third, why should anyone with existing GPS equipment have to pay to fix a problem caused by LightSquared? That's like someone buying a home near Chicago's O'Hare Airport — one of the world's busiest airports — and then insisting the airlines put mufflers on their planes so they can achieve their "American dream" of living in a quiet neighborhood.
Lastly, tests were recently conducted by the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Systems Engineering Forum, an executive branch body that helps advise policy makers on issues around GPS. They concluded that, "LightSquared signals caused harmful interference to majority of GPS receivers tested. No additional testing is required to confirm harmful interference exists."
The forum is scheduled to present its conclusions in Washington D.C. tomorrow.
If you want to read an intelligent response to the rural officials' letter to Deere, see the rebuttal from a farmer who offered his view as a "rural professional." It follows the December 7 post here.