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July 13, 2021

MRAAThe Marine Retailers Association of the Americas endorsed legislation that will assure GPS units continue working, despite possible interference from 5G technology.

The Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act of 2021 (RETAIN Act) was introduced by U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

The bill requires Ligado Networks, a satellite communications company, to reimburse businesses and consumers who are forced to replace their GPS receivers due to interference caused by the company’s proposed use of its L-Band spectrum, which was approved by a Federal Communications Commission order in April 2020. While the FCC’s decision requires Ligado to upgrade or replace federal government devices, it does not require Ligado to accept responsibility for the millions of potentially affected private devices. Opponents are concerned that the creation of this new 5G network on a frequency similar to that of GPS could cause interference that would then render GPS units useless – threatening the safety of the many users of these systems from first responders to recreational boat owners.

“GPS technology remains an integral tool for recreational boaters, and any interference with this important navigation aid puts our boaters’ safety at risk,” says Chad Tokowicz, Government Relations Manager at the MRAA. “The RETAIN Act seeks to assure that the risk for interference is mitigated by putting the responsibility on the right party, and we are pleased that these Senators have taken the lead to champion the safety of our boaters today and into the future.”

The RETAIN Act acknowledges the harm to GPS and satellite communications end users, including consumers, the Federal Government, and businesses, caused by the Ligado order and ensures any associated cost is covered by Ligado. Furthermore, the RETAIN Act also sets forth various conditions that must be met by Ligado before they are able to deploy terrestrial operations in the bands adjacent to that of GPS.

The MRAA joins numerous organizations in the recreational boating, fishing and conservation space to support this legislation and the importance of keeping boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts safe.

“Reliable, accurate navigation systems are a fundamental component of safe boating,” Said David Kennedy, Government Relations Manager for BoatUS. “Boaters rely on the publicly funded GPS system and it is fitting that any harm caused by the Ligado network to their GPS systems be remedied by the company. Senator Inhofe’s RETAIN Act will ensure this happens.”