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Monday, February 20, 2012 - 2:00am

Regulators Kill Broadband Plan

The Federal Communications Commission pulled the plug last week on a company building a new nationwide mobile broadband network. The move is disappointing to several counties in southwest Georgia who were hoping for more broadband competition and better service.

The FCC last year gave broadband company Light Squared temporary approval to start work on a new 4th-Generation mobile broadband network. The company planned to use land-based towers and satellites to provide high-speed access everywhere in the country.

Regulators blamed their change of heart of the technology’s interference with GPS signals like those used by personal navigation systems and other devices. Among those worried about that interference are farmers, who use GPS for irrigation equipment and more efficient fertilization of fields.

“I would not like to quash anybody’s innovations, but I believe the FCC got this right,” said Gene Roney, a row-crop farmer in Dooly County. “If there was any chance that [Light Sqared’s systems] would interfere with the GPS systems, their benefits would not make up for the disruption they would’ve caused on our farms.

Stuart, Quitman Randolph and Clay counties in southwest Georgia last year passed a resolution supporting the new service and urging federal officials to approve it. Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments Chairman Charles Evans Simmons said the group of counties got involved because the economic future of these areas depends on broadband.

“I’m hoping that the pressure will come, as far as rural America goes, [that] the pressure will be large on the phone companies to service these areas if they want to go and kill [a service that] would be most beneficial to them,” Simmons said.

Simmons said the council of four counties was not planning to contract with Light Squared to offer broadband service to residents but they were excited about the possibility of new service options for resident in their area.

Light Squared has been building an all-new mobile broadband network. It was not going to offer service but has contracted with retailers and small cellular service providers to use the network to sell service.