GAO: Congress Can’t Overturn FCC’s Ligado Order


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The Government Accountability Office says Congress can’t upend the FCC’s decision to allow Ligado to build a ground-based 5G network on a portion of L-band spectrum. The Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation, the National Security Agency and several other federal agencies oppose sharing the band, saying it could interfere with weapons and other sensitive communications.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) sought a decision on whether the Ligado Order is a rule under the Congressional Review Act, and thus subject to congressional assessment. They seek to have the agency order overturned.  

The FCC told the GAO the Ligado decision falls under the definition of an order and not a rule, and therefore is not subject to the Congressional Review Act. That’s what the GAO was trying to determine.

The FCC modified Ligado’s license to enable it to build the wireless network. The GAO said in its decision it agrees with the Commission that the decision is a licensing action that falls within the definition of an order and “not a rule.”

The FCC has defended its Ligado decision, with Chairman Ajit Pai citing that the Commission told Ligado to lower its power and imposed other conditions meant to protect incumbents from interference. The DoD says the conditions won’t do the job and the plan to put the onus on them to point out a weapon is being interfered with is unworkable.

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