Trump rescinds FCC Commissioner’s appointment
August 5, 2020
By Chris Forrester
US President Donald Trump has changed his mind and rescinded the renewal nomination of one of his own Republican commissioners.
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s 5-year term expired in June 2019. He was originally nominated to the FCC by President Obama in November 2013 and confirmed for his term on the FCC in 2015.
In March this year Trump nominated O’Rielly for an additional 5-year term. Under US rules a commissioner can stay in post until the close of the next Congress. His new term would have automatically been backdated to July 1st last year. O’Rielly was in post pending approval of his appointment by the full Senate.
O’Rielly is seen as having caused problems for the White House and while it has been denied that the his appointment’s problem was caused by his vote in favour of Ligado Network’s and the company’s plan to build a 5G network terrestrially but using L-band satellite spectrum. There is no doubt that the Ligado decision has upset some of his fellow-Republicans not least Senator Jim Inhofe who has been a vocal critic of O’Rielly and the L-band scheme.
The Ligado decision has generated many objectors not least the Pentagon and other government agencies which say that using L-band will interfere with GPS. Senator Inhofe has stated he will block O’Rielly’s nomination and vote to overturn the Ligado decision.
Commissioner O’Rielly was also a strong supporter of the C-band decision and where the FCC ruled that satellite spectrum be freed up for use for 5G expansion over the US.
The Ligado decision will affect London-based Inmarsat which has contracted to license some of its spectrum to Ligado. Objections have come in from many users including airline companies, federal departments, surveyor associations, weather forecasting, and the defense industry, and many have petitioned the FCC to reconsider the decision.
Ligado was previously known as LightSquared which went bust in 2012. The Ligado spectrum holdings — in the 1526–1536 MHz, 1627.5–1637.5 MHz, and 1646.5–1656.5 MHz bands—all lie in the so-called L-band frequency range, 1–2 GHz. GPS transmits its signals centred at 1575 MHz but because they are generated by satellite they are very weak. The objectors say that Ligado’s terrestrial transmissions – from terrestrial towers – would overpower and drown out the GPS signals which come from some 20,000 kms high.