Inhofe places hold on FCC commissioner nomination

By John Liang / July 28, 2020 at 10:32 AM

(Editor's Note: This has been updated to reflect that Mike O'Reilly's nomination is for another term as a commissioner of the FCC.)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) announced today he has placed a hold on the nomination of Mike O'Rielly for another term as a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission until O'Rielly publicly commits to vote to overturn the FCC's decision to approve Ligado Networks' L-band network.

Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, included language in the latest defense authorization bill that would bar the Pentagon from complying with the FCC's approval of Ligado Networks' L-band network until the Defense Department submits cost estimates associated with potential GPS interference.

However, the committee doesn't have jurisdiction over the FCC. That responsibility lies with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which hasn't taken any definitive action on the issue.

"Over the past few months, I have sent letters, held hearings and called countless officials to highlight what we all know to be true: the FCC's Ligado order is flawed and will lead to significant harm to our military and the thousands of individuals and businesses that rely on GPS," Inhofe said in a statement issued today. "The Trump administration understands this and has urged the FCC to reconsider the Ligado order.

"I am holding Commissioner O'Rielly's nomination until he publicly states that he will vote to overturn the current Ligado order," Inhofe continued. "I understand that O'Rielly has stated that he would give 'due consideration to a stay' 'based on new data or evidence' -- but that isn't enough. This isn't just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition. All of America can't be wrong, and he understands that. I need his commitment in plain English to vote to overturn the order, not just consider it, before I will allow his nomination to proceed."

Ligado Networks sent lawmakers a letter last month indicating some DOD officials supported the company's plan for deploying a terrestrial fifth-generation wireless network in the L-band and disagreed with the official Pentagon position that the network will cause "harmful interference" to GPS signals.

The June 18 letter, delivered to leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees, came as the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration asked the FCC to reconsider its decision to approve Ligado's network plan. The Pentagon, led by DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, has vociferously denounced the FCC's decision.