Reston, VA, October 12, 2023 – Mobile communications company Ligado Networks today sued the U.S. government for its unlawful taking of Ligado’s constitutionally protected, exclusively licensed spectrum without compensation.
Backed by a multiyear misinformation and disparagement campaign against Ligado to conceal these activities, the U.S. government misappropriated Ligado’s exclusively licensed spectrum to support previously undisclosed Defense Department systems that have been using Ligado’s spectrum without permission. The Defense Department’s unauthorized actions, supported by the Commerce Department and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration — an agency within DOC — have blocked the company from developing its allocated spectrum for terrestrial 5G services.
The Federal Communications Commission exclusively granted the company rights to use this spectrum after a comprehensive, multiyear regulatory review process. In good faith reliance on the FCC’s order, Ligado raised and invested billions of dollars to prepare its spectrum to support next-generation terrestrial 5G services.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims against the United States, the Defense Department, the Commerce Department and NTIA, seeks just compensation for the government’s physical, categorical, regulatory and legislative takings of Ligado’s property.
“The DOD misled the FCC, Congress and many others in its unconstitutional taking of our property and ongoing obstruction of our operations and, in doing so, deprived millions of Americans from access to much needed 5G services,” said Doug Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ligado. “The FCC, the federal agency with exclusive authority over the use and licensing of spectrum, made its final decision in 2020 after a thorough and exhaustive public review process. They stand by that decision today. Since then, we have worked diligently and in good faith with other government agencies to try and reach a fair resolution that would allow us to deploy our spectrum or be compensated appropriately. However, at this stage, DOD’s, DOC’s and NTIA’s unlawful actions have left us no choice but to pursue litigation to defend our interests, protect our employees and stakeholders and uphold the rule of law.”
“High ranking U.S. government officials have acted deliberately to deprive an American company of its rightfully licensed property,” said Ivan Seidenberg, Chairman of Ligado’s Board of Managers. “Ligado’s board is unanimous that the government must be held accountable for these actions. This outrageous and unconstitutional attack on an American business by the world’s most powerful institution is contrary to the rule of law and antithetical to the government’s years-long support for the deployment of 5G technology as a vital national priority.”
The bipartisan FCC unanimously authorized Ligado to operate terrestrial 5G services within its exclusively licensed LBand spectrum in April 2020 after a rigorous, years-long regulatory process and review. Ligado had intended to use the spectrum to support next-generation terrestrial 5G services that would benefit the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors like public safety, rail transport, renewable energy, trucking, public utilities, oil and gas and autonomous vehicles.
Unsubstantiated and Misleading Allegations of Harmful GPS Interference
DOD and DOC were an integral part of the FCC-run licensing process from 2010 to 2018. For many years, DOD, DOC and NTIA even supported Ligado’s development of its spectrum proposal. In 2018, DOD inexplicably reversed course and instead actively sought to block FCC approval through a reckless campaign of misinformation, scientifically meritless arguments and unsubstantiated fearmongering about alleged harmful interference by Ligado’s proposed terrestrial 5G services with GPS. DOC and NTIA followed soon after.
These misleading claims about harmful interference with GPS are a pretext. They have been central to DOD’s and DOC’s coordinated campaign to destroy Ligado’s reputation, prevent the company from using its authorized spectrum and conceal the Pentagon’s previously undisclosed systems that depend on Ligado’s exclusively licensed spectrum. Government officials have confirmed that DOD has been using Ligado’s spectrum without compensation for years and continues to do so to this day.
Coordinated Campaign to Prevent Ligado from Deploying its Spectrum
After the FCC approved Ligado’s spectrum proposal, other actors in the U.S. government took aggressive actions to block implementation of the April 2020 FCC Order and to thwart Ligado’s use of its licensed L-Band spectrum for 5G. First, NTIA, acting on DOD’s behalf, filed a motion to stay the April 2020 FCC Order based on alleged harmful interference with GPS. The FCC rejected this stay request in January 2021, finding it lacked any merit, but NTIA continues to press its case with a still-pending petition for reconsideration. Today, DOD, with no legal basis, continues to cite the petition as justification for refusing to cooperate with Ligado or even meet with the company, as directed by the April 2020 FCC Order.
In addition, DOD officials lobbied Congress to pass unprecedented provisions targeting a U.S. company in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which effectively gives DOD veto power over Ligado’s spectrum plans. These officials told Congress their opposition was due to alleged harmful GPS interference, making allegations they knew to be scientifically unsound and under a false pretext. DOD officials also directly threatened Ligado’s potential business partners by warning they would not be eligible for lucrative government contracts if they worked with the company.
Multiple former and current senior government officials have acknowledged that the DOD and DOC withheld information from the FCC and the White House and now want Ligado’s exclusively licensed spectrum for DOD’s own purposes. Government officials have also confirmed DOD permanently wants the entirety of Ligado’s FCC authorized spectrum in the L-Band and that DOD’s undisclosed activities cannot co-exist with Ligado’s authorized use of its spectrum.
Ligado’s Board of Managers includes:
- Ivan G. Seidenberg, Chairman, former Chairman, Verizon Communications
- Doug Smith, President & CEO, Ligado Networks
- Lawrence Babbio, former Vice Chairman and President, Verizon
- The Honorable Charles F. Bolden Jr., Major General (Retired), U.S. Marine Corps; 12th NASA Administrator; Founder & CEO Emeritus, The Charles F. Bolden Group
- Timothy M. Donahue, former Executive Chairman, Sprint Nextel Corporation; former President and CEO, Nextel Communications, Inc.
- John Fischer, General Counsel, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc.; former Managing Partner of Telecoms, Logica Consulting
- Dr. Janice M. “Jan” Hamby, Rear Admiral (Retired), U.S. Navy; Consultant, Director, Fair Winds Consulting, LLC
- Reed E. Hundt, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Coalition for Green Capital; former Chairman, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- Al Hurley, Jr., former Vice Chairman, Emigrant Bank and Emigrant Bancorp
About Ligado Networks
Building on 25 years of experience providing crucial satellite connectivity, our mission is to bring versatile, mobile connectivity to the businesses, people and places that need it most. Our satellite and terrestrial solutions, combined with powerful, lower mid-band spectrum, serve to supplement and broaden mobile coverage across the United States and Canada. Our innovative satellite and terrestrial network deployment plans will help pave the way for future innovations and economic growth across America.
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